Goats get OK to clear kudzu from Spencer Woods gully

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 10, 2014

SPENCER — Rather than using chemicals to kill kudzu, the town of Spencer may deploy six hungry goats to munch their way through the nuisance vine and other invasive plants growing in Spencer Woods.
Town aldermen agreed Tuesday to pursue the novel approach to kudzu control and amended a town ordinance to allow grazing goats on public property temporarily.
Kudzu and other stubborn species have taken over a section of Spencer Woods along the 1300 block of South Salisbury Avenue, across from Meals on Wheels and next to Magnolia Gardens nursing home. The area is mostly a large gully where storm water drains.
The town recently bought the 42-acre woods, also called Stanback Forest, from the Land Trust with money from a state grant.
The town and Land Trust are turning the forest into a park and ecological preserve with hiking trails, observation platforms and 1.75-mile walking loop.
K.D. Ecological Services, located in western North Carolina, proposes using goats for up to three “herbivory treatments,” starting in late summer. The goats would live on the property for about four weeks during the first grazing.
Based on results, the area may need a second treatment in the fall or next summer.
The business would build a welded wire fence to contain the goats. The site would be monitored daily for any problems, and all neighbors would have direct phone contacts with the business in case any issues arise, Town Manager Larry Smith said.
The goat labor might not cost the town a dime, Smith said after the meeting. While details have not been worked out, grants may cover the livestock rental, he said.
According to K.D. Ecological Service’s website, renting goats for kudzu control starts at $750 an acre.
The treatment would include the adjacent FMO Real Estate tract, Smith said. Goats are the most environmentally-friendly option the town has for clearing the kudzu, he said.
If the goats to go work, it won’t be the first time Spencer has used the livestock to control weeds. Alderman Scott Benfield said the town used goats to keep kudzu and honeysuckle in check at the old sewer plant when he was the public works director.
Goats are better at weed control than sheep because goats pull up plants by the root, while sheep sheer plants off a few inches from the ground, Alderman Jeff Morris said.
“That’s why goats are the ecologically sound choice,” he said.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.