A moveable feast moves on
VAIL ” Taquito is Lou Colby’s most congenial goat.
“He’s an ambassador,” she said.
On Monday afternoon, several local residents were giving their final farewells to the friendly ungulate Taquito and the 458 other goats that took up a two-week residence in Vail.
The goats, hired by the town of Vail to get rid of noxious weeds, have made plenty of friends in their two weeks here.
“My goat groupies,” Colby said. “I have a lot of them.”
Vail started hiring goats to eat weeds in 2001. They eat toadflax, musk thistle, Canadian thistle and oxeye daisies. Some of those plants are colorful, but they spread quickly across the meadows near the recreation path between the golf course and the Vail Memorial Park in East Vail. The weeds and non-native plants push out native plants, some of which are important food for animals.
“Your elk and your deer and your other animals, they don’t eat toadflax,” Colby said.
This is Colby’s third year bringing her goats to Vail. She runs Golden Hooves Grazing and lives a nomadic life from job to job. She’s going to Boulder after she leaves Vail for a job on the University of Colorado campus.
Before she was a goat grazer for hire, she had a ranch in southeast Montana. An infestation of a weed called leafy spurge showed her how effectively goats can remove weeds.
“Leafy spurge is like a chocolate to them,” she said. “They’ll go like a kid in a candy store and pick it out.”
She showed a thistle along the bike path after it had already been defoliated by the goats. Only the stem of the plant was left, with all of the prickly leaves eaten by the goats.
She uses four border collie mixes as herders and two great Pyrenees as guard dogs to protect against predators like coyotes, mountain lions and bears. She has different commands for the herding dogs to round up the goats, who are smart animals, Colby said.
“(People are) amazed at how fun they are,” Colby said. “They’re so active and curious.”
She uses portable electric fences to keep the goats in prescribed areas. But Colby has to consider “goat psychology” ” how to keep the goats happy and hungry. They don’t like to stay in the same place for too long.
“It’s like having oatmeal in front of you three times a day from a dirty bowl,” she said.
Colby lives in a trailer along the rec path, in a meadow near the golf course and multi-million-dollar homes. It has a kitchen but no TV. She herds the goats near her camp at night.
Her day begins by 4 a.m., and the goats require constant supervision. She hasn’t even gone into Vail Village during her stay here.
“I need to get someone to goat-sit,” she said.
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