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Salt Cedar-Munching Goats on Display in the Bosque

ALBUQUERQUE - Hundreds of hungry goats will demonstrate how they chomp, stomp and bust up salt cedar during an open field day on Saturday, Oct. 30 in the bosque in Albuquerque.

Phyllis Meyers, co-owner of Cattlemens Livestock Auction Co. Inc. in Belen, tends to her goats. Meyers and goat herder Sara Harris were contracted to manage goats on the bosque as part of a pilot project to control salt cedar and other invasive species. The bosque project will be on display at an open field day on Saturday, Oct. 30. (10/27/2004) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

The goats have been dining along the Rio Grande since Sept. 16 as part of a pilot project to measure how effective they are in controlling salt cedar, a water guzzling invasive species that has infested watersheds throughout New Mexico and the Southwest.

"Anybody interested in seeing the goats in action and learning more about efforts to control salt cedar and other invasive species is welcome to attend the field day," said Manny Encinias, a livestock specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "It's also an opportunity for goat producers to learn how to use their herds for vegetation management and how to win brush clearing contracts."

Extension is a partner with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District on the three-year bosque project, which was financed this first year with part of a $100,000 grant from the state legislature.

Salt cedar control methods at other watersheds in New Mexico have included chemical, mechanical and biological tools. However, using goats is fairly new, said Sterling Grogan, conservancy district biologist.

"It's worked well in other states as a practical, environmentally friendly and cost-effective tool to control invasive species, so we're trying it in the bosque," Grogan said. "By cutting down invasive species, we can increase water flow in the river and reduce fuel for fires."

As interest grows in using goats, it creates a new niche business for goat herders, Encinias said. Extension will teach interested goat producers about proper herd management along watersheds during the field day.

The morning sessions will educate the public about invasive species and control methods, and the afternoon sessions will be geared to goat producers, but the public is welcome to attend all the presentations, Encinias said.

In the morning, Grogan and Subhas Shah, conservancy district chief engineer, will discuss the goals of the bosque project and results so far.

Extension weed specialist Mark Renz will talk about invasive and noxious weeds in New Mexico and control methods.

Goat herders Sara Harris and Phyllis Meyers, who were contracted to manage the goats on the bosque, will talk about their efforts since September. Harris will also discuss a separate goat project in San Acacia.

Kelly Boney, a goat producer from San Jon, will discuss another brush clearing project along Ute Creek in Harding County, where she herds about 1,000 goats.

Conservation and noxious weed specialists working along the Canadian River, the lower Rio Grande and the Pecos River in Carlsbad will discuss control of invasive species in those areas.

After lunch, Extension specialists and goat herders will teach producers how to prepare proposals to bid on contracts. They will also discuss weed identification and management and talk about challenges faced by herders when managing contracts.

At 4 p.m., participants will tour the bosque areas the goats have cleared.

The field day runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Registration is at 8:30 a.m.

The event will take place at La Orilla Road in the bosque. To get there, drive about four miles north of I-40 on Coors Blvd., turn east at the traffic light at La Orilla Road, go a quarter of a mile and park next to the bosque. A minivan will shuttle participants to the site, or walk north on the levee about half a mile until seeing the goats.

For more information, or if you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, contact Grogran at (505) 247-0235 or Encinias at (505) 374-2566.