There’s no such thing as bad weather for goats.
The few visitors to Nose Hill during Saturday’s snow storm would have seen the goat herd munching away at the Canadian Thistle and other invasive weeds.
Despite the 10 centimetres of snow fall, according to Environment Canada, Trent Cahoon’s herd was out of their temporary paddock and continuing their work on the park.
“All things considered, they’re loving it,” he said.
The herd from Creekside Farms, just outside of Magrath, Alberta, has been hard at work for the past two weeks.
The City of Calgary hired the full-time weed munching goats to restore the natural landscape on the eastern slopes of Nose Hill.
And for his part, Cahoon has been acting as an unofficial ambassador to the green-and-clean program and for the goats themselves.
“As a lovely friend once said, goats bring out the best in everyone—it’s the gold factor, I love it,” he said.
“People are curious, and I love what I’m doing, I really do.”
Frozen onions, but cozy blankets
No heat is on during the night at the small paddock that overlooks the 64 Avenue NW parking lot. The temperature fell to below zero overnight on Friday leading into Saturday.
“I put on some really thick blankets, and when I pulled the blankets back I said ‘hey, it’s not cold,’” Cahoon said.
“It’s wet snow, but inside my trailer and plus with just body heat and all the blankets in the trailer, it was really quite pleasant.
“I know that at some point it did freeze last night, just by judging from the stuff like my food inside the trailer—the onions are rock solid.”
Outside, the goats can handle very low temperatures. The overnight low of -1 degree wasn’t even enough to have all of the herd join in a group huddle.
“People think we’re crazy because we keep our goats out to like minus 40, minus 30,” Cahoon said.
“Goats will create like goat pyramids inside their shelters stay warm, and If you poke your head in one of those, it’s like 20 degrees warmer.”
He said that generally about half the goats will stand outside, and the other half will be in the shelter, and throughout the night they’ll trade off.
Thistle and lentils for breeding season
The Canadian Thistle is a goat favourite, but even with all of that plant’s nutrition, Cahoon still has to supplement the goat feed.
“They’re getting a lot, but we got to make sure it’s optimal,” he said.
Breeding season is coming up soon, and peas and lentils make up for the the needed extra protein.
The entire herd is female, save for one male goat. New female goats will be added to the herd to continue grazing at other sites next year, while the male goats will be sold at auction.
Cahoon said that just like people, on Saturday morning, the goats didn’t want to get out of bed.
Around 8 a.m., he enticed them up the side of the hill towards grazing locations with a trail of dried peas.
“We fed in some dried peas along the path in the morning, that helps to also dry the path for when it does clear up a little bit so we can keep feeding them and supplementing their feed,” Cahoon said.
“The feed is pretty dry out here, and we got to add a lot of protein and make sure they’re shipshape.”
As for the thistle itself, the snow and cold just makes it even more delicious for the goats.
“Definitely the thistles are going to be more tender, and they’re going to be munched on more,” Cahoon said.