Goats are known for their insatiable appetites. While this is usually seen as a nuisance, the state of Maryland is seeing these bottomless-bellied animals as a godsend for the region’s tree population.
On October 7, a group of 19 goats were particularly overjoyed in a wooded area near Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.’s East Towson substation, where they munched freely on the invasive vines surrounding the area’s trees.
Veronica Cassilly of Harmony Church Farms in Darlington, Harford County, is the owner of 19 goats, which she calls “Harmony Herd.”
“Our job is to save the trees,” Cassily told the Baltimore Sun. “The goats eat all of the brush. They eat the leaves off the vines so we can find vines at the bottom of the trees.”
Once they are able to locate vines at the tree’s bottoms, the volunteers can then uproot them. Vines can prove detrimental to trees, sapping them of precious nutrients, strangling trunks, and contributing added weight, which introduces dangers of toppling limbs or trunks.
To prevent added weight from trees causing damage, arborists typically recommend trimming trees once a year during dormant season. But for trees in the wild that become susceptible to dominance from other species, the goats play an essential role in maintenance.
Cassilly, 51, has owned her farm for 20 years and acquired the goats four years ago. She originally introduced them to her farm in order to clean up the brush in her 12-acre property.
“It was in really bad shape,” she said. “The vines were pulling the trees over.”
Now, Cassilly regularly brings her goats to environmental groups, schools, and areas in which governments hire her and the goats to help restore natural, forested areas.
The goats have certainly made their way around Maryland’s forested areas, from Bel Air’s Rockfield Park to the Masonville Cove Environmental Education enter in Downtown Baltimore.
While the idea of using goats for tree maintenance may seem novel, Cassilly seems to think otherwise.
“People have been using goats to clean for hundreds of years,” Cassilly said. “It’s not a new idea.”