NORTH MANKATO — Goats could be coming to North Mankato.
No, don’t start building your backyard pasture fence in anticipation of raising a herd of American Pygmy goats and maybe some urban chickens on the side.
These goats would be workers, temporary and strictly regulated.
The City Council Monday night set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Aug. 17 to take public input on the proposed “prescribed grazing” ordinance.
Community Development Director Mike Fischer said some residents had asked about hiring a business that brings in goats to do what goats do — eat their fill of invasive and undesirable plants that most animals have no interest in and that property owners have difficulty in controlling in other ways.
Specifically, the residents hoped to use goats to eat invasive common buckthorn on steep ravines.
A change to city code is required because farm animals are not allowed in the city.
The proposed ordinance would have a variety of requirements for grazing goats.
For properties of less than two acres a permit would be granted for up to 30 days, twice per year. For larger tracts of land the city zoning administrator would decide on the length of grazing.
Temporary fences would be erected, including electric fences so long as there are warning signs posted. There are also requirements for animal welfare, storage of feed, insurance and other regulations.
Councilwoman Diane Norland said she heard concerns that “Turning the goats loose, they would also eat other foliage.”
While she said that may true, the alternative of killing buckthorn with herbicide is worse as it can contaminate water and harm people.
“Herbicides and pesticides are killers. Not only of critters but, Mayo Health Systems believes, of human beings as well.”
Residents who want to comment live via phone during the public hearing or who want to submit written comments ahead of time or who have questions may email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many cities are turning to goats for control of invasive species in rough terrain, including Minneapolis, St. Paul and Twin Cities’ suburbs.
Last April a herd of goats was brought to Flandrau State Park in New Ulm and cordoned off on 22 acres of steep ravines to remove troublesome plants that park staff could not easily control.
The goats feed on a wide variety of plants including common buckthorn, garlic mustard, dame’s rocket, poison ivy and thistles, which are mostly ignored by other animals.