How Hungry Goats Could Solve Oklahoma’s Red Cedar Problem

  • Logan Layden
Goats eat weeds at Cloisters City Park July 2011

mikebaird / Flickr

Eastern Red Cedar trees are a menace to Oklahoma.

As StateImpact has reported, “the volatile oils they contain can cause the trees to explode during wildfires… They also crowd out other plants, force wildlife off their habitats, and hoard rainfall.”

It’s easy to see why you might not want them around during a drought, and lawmakers have proposed ideas from a prisoner-eradication program to developing markets for cedar products like mulch and shingles.

But as The Journal Record‘s Brian Brus reports, at Langston University, goat research is providing another possible solution:

The animals’ appetite for otherwise-unpalatable flora might be the solution to the problem plaguing Oklahoma’s farmers and other land managers…

“Goats don’t magically control red cedars overnight, but give them a few years and they’ll gradually browse it and strip the bark until it’s dead,” [Langston University Agriculture scientist Steve Hart] says.”

Goats aren’t just getting more popular in Oklahoma because of their taste for invasive plant species. Brus goes on to report that Oklahoma is now the country’s fourth-largest producer of goats used for meat, and there’s already a solid market for their milk.

Danny Thompson, who operates Schecham Ranch in Shawnee, said that even though the state’s collective goat herd has declined slightly during the drought, he can tell that consumer interest is growing: Sales of meat no longer spike seasonally, he said.

“There’s been such a demand that prices stay high yearlong,” he said. “It’s no longer just a matter of other cultures eating goat.”

Goats are being studied at Langston to find genetic lines hearty enough to deal with a changing climate and more frequent drought.