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Weed-eating goats being considered for Parksville

From left, Allan Iwanyshyn, Tammy Dunakin and Beverly Ness mingle with some of the goats they would like to put to work munching unwanted vegetation in Parksville. - JOHN HARDING PHOTO
From left, Allan Iwanyshyn, Tammy Dunakin and Beverly Ness mingle with some of the goats they would like to put to work munching unwanted vegetation in Parksville.
— image credit: JOHN HARDING PHOTO

Move over Goats on the Roof — some of your cousins may soon be munching Scotch Broom on city boulevards.

Parksville city council heard Monday night from a business that wants to set up shop in the city, a weed service of sorts that employs hungry goats.

Representatives of Goats on the Hoof, an affiliate of U.S.-based Rent-A-Ruminant, made a presentation to Parksville city council on Monday night. The local people who want to start the business here, Beverly Ness and Allan Iwanyshyn, can't be issued a business licence unless council makes changes, exceptions or amends a city bylaw that states it's unlawful to keep goats in the city limits. The business may also need city permission to have a live-in trailer beside the area being munched while the goats do their job.

In the end, council directed staff to come back with a report to a future council meeting on how, and if, this business idea could work in Parksville. Before that, councillors were treated to what a few of them later described as an interesting and entertaining presentation.

Iwanyshyn brought Tammy Dunakin from Washington state to make the presentation to council. Dunakin described herself as the "owner and chief wrangler" of a company called Goats on the Hoof Vegetation Management.

Dunakin described how the service works. A business, resident or municipality rents a herd of goats from the company, which shows up with enough goats to to the job required. The goats are enclosed in an electric security fence and a “herder” is stationed near the goats, living 24/7 in a trailer until the job is completed.

Dunakin listed all the weeds the goats can take care of, and she also said the plan works best on terrain where traditional machines cannot access easily. She said the goats will munch blackberries, ivy, Scotch Broom, knotweed, morning glory, holly, nuisance trees and saplings, nettle, thistle, grasses, horsetail and more. She also said the goats’ digestive system sterilizes any seeds, reducing the risk of spreading weeds to other locations.

“It’s good for the earth, it’s good for the goats and it’s good for the communities where they go,” said Dunakin. “They are kind of a no-brainer to green vegetation management.”

In response to a question from Coun. Marc Lefebvre, Dunakin said variations in the size of land that needs clearing, and the corresponding size of the goat herd required to do the job, make it difficult to provide exact prices for the service, as well as what the market would pay here compared to the U.S. In the Seattle area, Dunakin charges US $250/day for a 15-goat herd to clear a quarter acre, which she said usually takes seven-10 days.

For more information about the business, visit: www.goatsonthehoof.com

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