Furry Workers Help Save Clay Cliff’s Natural Area

For four years a silent yet deadly killer has been has wreaking havoc on flowers and plants at Clay Cliff’s Natural Area in Leelanau County.

We took a walk through the area with Leelanau Conservancy’s Natural Areas and Preserves Manager, Becky Hill.

As we walk Hill shows us spots of the silent killer, its name?

Garlic mustard.

The conservancy team has tried everything to get rid of the plant.

“We’ve done various control techniques over the years from hand-pulling, to herbicide, to weed wicking, just trying to keep it from going to seed. It just keeps spreading,” says Hill.

But this summer, a new idea presented itself.

Hill tells us, “This is such a large area of infestation that we’ve just kinda been feeling like what can we do next and then we had the opportunity to get the goats in here to do a conservation grazing project which I’ve just been so excited about.”

Enter Amy and the team.

Amy McIntire is the owner of City Girls Farm, they were hired by the Leelanau Conservancy to bring a heard of dairy goats out to eat garlic mustard.

McIntire shares, “Goats do eat many of our invasive species, if deer ate it, it wouldn’t be invasive. We put them down because they will graze from sun up to sun down, take a little break, rest relax and get up and eat again until its dark.”

McIntire and her furry team have been working at Clay Cliff’s for two weeks and the results have been both delicious, and successful.

“We did a quick math calculation, and yesterday I counted 17 plants in a square foot, did some rough math and estimated that they probably ate around 4,000 plants in a 5 hour period,” explains Amy.

Goats have a four department stomach, they’re pretty much always hungry for food and clear a paddock pretty quick.

Amy tell us, “I flip flopped these guys six times yesterday. So they did six different paddocks yesterday!”

It’s a chemical free solution to a huge issue, but the end goal will take time.

“I believe that seeds can be viable for up to 10 years in the soil, so this is not just a one-time project,” says Hill.

“We’ll need to keep at it for years and the goal would be to deplete the seed bank and eventually we can restore this part of the property into a more natural environment.”

Complete restoration will take years, but for the first time we have a viable solution and based on the look of the now bare paddocks, the goats don’t hate the set up either.

If you want to help the fight against garlic mustard the Leelanau Conservancy is having a workbee Saturday, for more information, click here.

For more information on City Girls Farm, click here.

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