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Goats can help with yellow starthistle control

Goats have large livers that allow processing of compounds less digestible or more toxic to other grazers.
Goats' penchant for eating almost any plant material can make them a valuable management tool for landowners faced with a yellow starthistle infestation.

Yellow starthistle is thought to have been introduced into California from Chile during the Gold Rush. The weed readily took hold in California valleys and foothills, thriving in areas where the soil has been disturbed by animals grazing, road construction and wildland firebreaks. Today, yellow starthistle is a very common sight in vacant lots and fields, along roadsides and trails, in pastures and ranch lands, and in parks, open-space preserves and natural areas.

Capable of growing six feet tall and bearing flowers surrounded by inch-long spines, yellow starthistle reduces land value, prevents access to recreational areas, consumes groundwater and poisons horses. (Yellow starthistle isn't all bad. Beekeepers have found that it can provide an important late-season food source for bees.)

Deep tap roots allow yellow starthistle to thrive during hot, dry summers.
Large property owners use a variety of methods to control yellow starthistle - chemical, mechanical and biological - but UC scientists believe individual homeowners are a key to containing and eliminating this invasive pest.

That's where goats can come in. Goats will eat yellow starthistle at all phases of growth, including the mature, spiny stage, when it is not palatable to other browsers and grazers.

"When goats eat yellow starthistle, they open up the canopy and allow sunlight to hit the ground," said Roger Ingram, UC Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor. "That allows other, more beneficial seeds to come up and grow. If you can get other plants growing in there, the competition will choke out yellow starthistle."

Landowners can raise goats themselves and direct them to areas of starthistle infestation with portable fencing, or they can lease the animals exclusively for vegetation control. More information on yellow starthistle management is available from the UC Integrated Pest Management Program.

View the video below for more information on goats' browsing preferences.

Read a transcript of the video.

Attached Files
GoatsYST
Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 8:54 AM

Comments:

1.
Can their poops carry seeds though?

Posted by Adrian on May 17, 2018 at 8:54 PM

2.
Are star thistle seeds viable in goat poop, or have they been fully digested?

Posted by Juli Thompson on August 10, 2019 at 12:24 PM

3.
Research in Idaho found that only about 3% of yellow starthistle seeds remained viable after passage through a goat's digestive system. This is true for other ruminants (sheep, cattle, etc.) as well - and for other weed species. Properly timed grazing (especially with sheep or goats) can help control yellow starthistle.

Posted by Dan Macon on August 12, 2019 at 8:33 AM

4.
I own goats and like most ruminants they have 4 stomach chambers and highly acidic stomach acid so their would likely be no seeds left or very little left.

Posted by JW on May 5, 2020 at 12:58 PM

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