Goats help reclaim grass near Donalda

Clearing  the land for grass – These goats are said to be doing a great job by clearing Darrin Hebbes’ acreage of bush to allow grass to grow while at the same time putting on some weight raising their value as meat.

Clearing the land for grass – These goats are said to be doing a great job by clearing Darrin Hebbes’ acreage of bush to allow grass to grow while at the same time putting on some weight raising their value as meat.

Donalda farmer Darrin Hebbes has launched an agricultural experiment which could prove to be a profitable solution for many cattle growers in the province.

Having moved to the Donalda area from Strathmore about three years ago, Hebbes says he started to look for solutions to reclaim the grazing land on the 420 acres he purchased for his farming business.

With the involvement of the Battle River Research Group focusing on agricultural economy and the Western Stock Growers Association, where Hebbes functions as a board member, an experimental practice of goat grazing has been underway on the acreage for two weeks, a period that was enough to put smiles on many faces.

“This is the biggest goat herd in the province, if not in Canada,” said Hebbes referring to some 800 goats eating the brush on Hebbes’ acreage.

Goats were brought in to graze on the bush for a period of one month, which, Hebbes believes, will be enough for the grass to start to grow again.

Kimberly Will, agrologist with the Battle River Research Group said it was essentially similar to rotation of crops in grain farming.

“This is practically finding a natural solution to a problem that emerges naturally,” she said.

Because goats graze on bush, as they sweep through the acreage and eat the leaves of the bushes, they deprive their roots of their basic nutrients and that allows the grass to take over and start to grow on the same land.

Hebbes said the research was being conducted in a completely scientific way and tests were being conducted regularly on the soil to record the changes in conditions as goats keep wiping out the brush.

Even a small piece of land has been fenced to allow for comparison with the goat-grazed areas at the end of the experiment.

Hebbes said the owner of the goat herd was also happy as it was obvious that within only two weeks, the goats had visibly put on weight.

Julie Hebbes, Darrin’s wife said they themselves were contemplating to grow a herd of as many as 200 goats.

“And this is not only for the grazing land reclamation,” said Julie.

“There is demand for goat meat as well.”

All the parties are now looking forward to the completion of the experiment to be able to report their success with figures and statistics.