UW-Madison researchers examining effectiveness of goat grazing as strategy for eliminating invasive plants

MADISON, Wis. — Using goats as a strategy to mow down invasive plants has slowly gained popularity in recent years, though concrete information about the practice’s effectiveness is hard to come by. Now, two of Madison’s largest employers are partnering on a new study to examine how effective the practice actually is.

The study — led by UW-Madison Ph.D. student, Stefania Cartoni-Casamitjana, and UW-Madison professor, Dr. Mark Renz — aims to analyze the effectiveness and safety of multiple strategies for eliminating invasive plant species, including goat grazing.

“We’ve done so much to degrade our ecosystems around us that it’s important that we find ways to restore them closest to their original state,” Cartoni-Casamitjana said. “Restoring these lands will help them be more resilient to climate change and help inform other researchers and projects.”

Cartoni-Casamitjana and Renz are conducting their research at American Family Insurance’s headquarters on Madison’s far east side. American Family partnered with UW-Madison on the project as part of the company’s efforts to increase sustainable practices throughout its campuses.

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Cartoni-Casamitjana and Renz ultimately decided to conduct their research on the American Family Insurance headquarters property because of the land’s dense population of oak trees, which are susceptible to damage and degradation caused by invasive plants.

“We are ultimately interested in the long-term effects of these methods,” Renz said. “We plan to come back in 3 to 4 years to see if there are changes in the vegetation.”

In addition to using goats, the research team plans to include other control methods and test sites to examine which strategies for eliminating invasive species work best.