GREAT FALLS – Scores of goats are busy at Malmstrom Air Force Base, chowing down on weeds.
Base personnel use a portable electric fence to keep the the goats in the most weed-infested areas.
Not only are these goats eating weeds, they are also helping reduce fire hazards.
This is the second year in a row that the goats have been brought to Malmstrom.
(JUNE 2017) On Monday, about 500 goats arrived at Malmstrom Air Force Base to get to work in the undeveloped areas.
Malmstrom Air Force Base Natural Resource Manager Elin Pierce says this will help stimulate the native plants to grow.
"The goal of the project is to conduct an alternative means to reducing the invasive weed species population on Malmstrom," Pierce said.
It took a year and a half of planning and preparation for the project to start.
Prescriptive Livestock Services Project Manager Lora Soderquist says she thinks it is fantastic Malmstrom is making progressive decisions.
"They are recognizing they’re are multiple facets objectives here for the base. One is what we are doing here, which is to improve this prairie," Soderquist said.
The goats were out for one day last year to see how they would handle the noise at Malmstrom.
Pierce said they were able to reassure base personnel that this project was going to work without any type of safety hazards.
"This is a nuclear base and we have weapon training areas and weapon storage facilities. There was a lot of concerns for safety issues," Pierce said.
The goats will graze on 1,300 acres of Malmstrom over the next six weeks.
"Goats are a great choice for this type of an approach because they naturally tend to favor flowering plants over grasses," Soderquist said.
They use a portable electric fence to keep the the goats in the most weed infested areas.
The goats will be able to graze about an acre a day in some areas.
Not only are these goats eating weeds on base, they are also helping reduce fire hazards.
"We will be routing them from this area to the area over there where our rifle training area is. It will be down during the Forth of July so we can go down there and graze. That gives us a window for reducing the weeds, which when they dry up in August they create a fire hazard so for them it is great," Pierce said.
The goat grazing project is expected to go for a total of three years.