Goats: An eco-friendly campus solution to invasive plants

Cornell College welcomed roughly 25 to 50 four-legged guests to campus as an eco-friendly way of dealing with invasive plants and overgrown weeds. 

A goat eating weeds near campus
One of the goats dines on invasive species.

“We wanted to find a way to address the unwanted growth in an area off the main campus in such a way that we’d be good stewards of the environment,” said Construction Projects Manager Scott Ladwig. “We didn’t want to use chemicals or heavy equipment that pumps CO2 into the air, so we found a local farm whose herd of goats could accomplish our goals. Plus, this is also much more cost-effective for the college.”

Goats On The Go®️Cedar Valley brought their goats to land located behind the Thomas Commons between Summit Ave. SW and 10th Ave. SW. They’ll graze for several days at the beginning of June.

“The college is making a very green choice to bring goats in to get their timber areas under control from invasive species,” said Jaime Allard, who owns the goats. “Garlic mustard is a big problem in our area, and by using goats, we can get it under control. It’s a biennial plant, therefore we recommend a three-part grazing plan to really tackle it, such as spring-fall-spring.” 

goat herd on campus
Some goats take a break from munching on the greens in an enclosed area behind Kimmel Theatre.

Allard says their farm serves people in the counties of Linn, Jones, Cedar, and the northern part of Johnson. Goats on the Go affiliates are located in 14 states and two other countries, and Allard says this isn’t the business her family thought they’d be in today.

“We bought a small acreage in 2011 and over the years, added animals, making a small hobby farm and giving our kids a taste of farm life, chores, responsibility, and diving into 4-H with their animals,” Allard said. “We started with goats because I wanted to drink raw goat’s milk. Just like most animals on the farm, two goats quickly turned into our current number of 67.”

The goats are working on a 2.5-acre plot of land owned by the college and will likely return in the future to feed on unwanted plants in two other campus locations.

“Once our goats eat through an area, typically clearing roughly 6-foot high foliage, down to the ground,” Allard said. “It makes the area easier to work in, clear out derecho debris, make trails or whatever else our customers want to do with the area.  Goats love what people don’t—poison ivy, honeysuckle, multi-flora rose, garlic mustard, etc.!”

Taking care of the goats is a family business. Allard’s husband, Heath, and their two kids, Harrison (16), and Tori (15) all team up on their farm, RoyAn Ridge Farm, to support Goats On The Go®️Cedar Valley.