Goats graze weeds at St. Anthony church

Nativity Lutheran Church is using goats to graze away invasive species on hard-to-manage hills on its grounds. 

Back in April, the St. Anthony City Council gave the go-ahead for goats to be used at the church. After a few delays, the place of worship welcomed a small flock of goats in late September. 

For decades, said Nativity Lutheran congregates, the steep, sloping hills around the church were full of weeds. 

Because the slopes are so drastic, church maintenance workers were unable to safely, successfully or consistently lift and maneuver their mowers up and down the inclines. Invasive species like buckthorn and Canadian thistle spread with abandon, suffocating anything churchgoers planted, creating sometimes near vertical weed-tangled eyesores. 

The church thought against using chemicals, fearing runoff would flow too easily down the sharp incline into neighbors’ yards. At one point, said St. Anthony resident and Nativity Lutheran member Lona Doolan, a frustrated maintenance staffer tied ropes to his mower and pulled it like a till. 

Fed up, the church entertained a few new options — including the goats — and ended up makinig the call. 

 

Goat call

Nativity Lutheran is located in the 3300 block of Silver Lake Road, across the street from St. Anthony City Hall.

Walking down that busy street Sept. 25, amidst the cars zipping by and popping in and out of the municipal compound’s parking lot, there was also the occasional sound of goats calling to each other or a passersby — be it human or animal.

“They are really peaceful and calm,” said Doolan, adding the goats are very social and aware people are there, often calling to folks as they approach the pen or walk away. 

The goats were behind what Jake Langeslag of Goat Dispatch, a Faribault-based goat rental company, called “double walls.” There was the outer wall protecting people, pets and other animals from the second wall, which is electric. The second, lightly electric fence keeps the goats penned in.

Four goats had arrived — two mothers and two babies. “Those babies are on jobs,” said Langeslag during a Sept. 25 informational session for Nativity Lutheran members and community neighbors. The goats graze a specific quadrant until everything is clear, then someone from Goat Dispatch returns to herd the goats to a new section, he said.

Doolan said church maintenance workers have been informed about a few things, but upkeep of the goats and pens is entirely handled by Goat Dispatch. 

Langeslag said goats do well in urban areas because they huddle closely together, don’t make much noise, have tiny and largely odorless droppings and have stomachs complex enough to just about “eat anything.”

Most important of all, goats can graze weeds in tough-to-reach spots. 

The solar-powered electric fence keeps goats in, but it also keeps predators, like coyotes, out, said Langeslag. He added that if a goat does break free, Goat Dispatch has emergency responders on call to run over and walk the goat back. 

Doolan said the church has hardly noticed the goats other than the occasional goat call. She said no one from the neighborhood has complained, and added the church previously held additional goat grazing info sessions for the community. 

The St. Anthony council approved the goats for up to 14 days, but Doolan said the city is working with the church to see the weed problem all the way through. 

For the newly cleared green space, the church plans on expanding its vegetable garden to grow more produce for food shelves, and transitioning the hillside into pollinator gardens.

 

-Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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