New York Today: Prospect Park Goes to the Goats

Even the folks in New York City have figured out that animal impact – in this case ‘exotic’ goats –  can better maintain open space than machinery or chemicals.  This insight puts them ahead of Texas’ mainstream wildlife ‘managers’.

NOTE: This post initially appeared on NYTimes.com on May, 2016

To help restore a decrepit, overgrown area of Prospect Park in Brooklyn this summer, Larry and Anna Cihanek evaluated more than 150 candidates.

Ultimately, Olivia, a pushy young blonde; Diego, a good-natured loner; and six others were deemed perfect for the task: fit, eager and hungry for the job.

In fact, they have been known to eat about 20 percent of their body weight in a day.

They are goats.

Hired by the Prospect Park Alliance at $15,000 for the season, the eight-member herd will help restore a northeastern patch of the park known as the Vale of Cashmere, a dilapidated nook that looks as if it would be right at home at Grey Gardens.

Trees are still strewn about from a tornado in 2010. Damage remains from Hurricanes Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012. Difficult-to-remove English ivy, goutweed and poison ivy choke other vegetation.

Enter the goats, from Rhinebeck, N.Y., who will be moving to the big city this month to spend the late spring and summer in an enclosure at the site, where members of the public can visit them.

“They’re a bit like children,” said Mr. Cihanek, a goat herder and the tribe’s owner. “They will eat their favorite foods first, and one of their top foods is poison ivy. They love it.”

The Cihaneks’ goats, however, are not kids. Many are older milk goats rescued from the butcher.

It’s a win-win situation, said Sue Donoghue, president of the Prospect Park Alliance, which is also planning educational events with the herd.

Not only is it an ecological approach to restore the park, she said, but “we’re helping these goats further their careers.”

Our Circle Ranch goats are hilarious to watch and keep us in cabrito.

Posted by Chris Gill

Ranching, wildlife management, finance, oil & gas, real estate development and management.

  1. Interesting that you keep goats, they are know to be though on the plants but of course that’s a management issue. How do you avoid that they over-grass and de-vegetate the place, how often do you move them?

    Reply

    1. We have 16 nannies and 3 billies. Usually we get about 30 kids every year – which we eat. Ours are Boer Goats, the Spanish Goat is smarter and more hardy, so a better choice for survivability.

      They move themselves daily and come back to the corrals at night. If left out they are susceptible to predation and we do not kill predators. They range 1.5 miles so they cover around 5,000 acres. We fence them out of the HQ Compound, or else they would eat all the ornamentals. They seem to choose different terrain and plants daily, I do not see the pattern. I would like to establish a small remote herd in the desert but I think they would get eaten, and it is another project I do not really have time to pursue.

      Reply

      1. Okay. if you were to go large scale with goats, dogs would probably be the best way to keep them safe.

        Reply

        1. Dogs need people to feed them, and dogs become disoriented without human companionship. Llamas and burros might work as guard animals but getting them to integrate and identify with the goats is tough. Given the vulnerability of Boer goats, especially the kids, and our protection of predators, a remote herd – even though a good idea from a physiological perspective – would be a big new chore for the staff; we do not have time for this in addition to everything else. If one could release them and periodically round them up for harvest it would be great.

          Reply

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