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December 13, 2017

Go Ahead, Little Goat, Eat Some Poison Ivy. It Won't Hurt A Bit

Oh, those goats? I got them from Amazon!

The online giant is testing out a “Home Services” line. You can get a TV mounted on your wall. You can find a plumber. And you can rent a herd of goats to chomp on unwanted vegetation in your yard.

I typed my Maryland ZIP code into “Hire a Goat Grazer.” Sorry, “no providers available.” It turns out that Amazon is wrangling goats only in the Seattle area right now, although a spokesman promises that more cities will be added.

As a goat admirer and editor of a blog called “Goats and Soda,” I wanted to learn more about the grazing habits of goats — especially their alleged immunity to poison ivy. For enlightenment, I turned to Jean-Marie Luginbuhl, professor of crop science and animal science at North Carolina State University.

Why are goats not allergic to poison ivy?

We don’t really know.

Do you have any theories?

If you look at the world population of goats, which is about 937 million, 95 percent of them are within the tropics, north and south of the equator. So they evolved in very arid areas and basically had to survive on plants that contained noxious compounds. So goats evolved this ability to detoxify noxious compounds much better than cattle or sheep [can]. I think that’s one of the reasons.

If a goat ate poison ivy, could I catch poison ivy from that goat’s milk?

Some people have had concern that whatever compound [a goat ate] would be passed into the milk. But it’s not.

And just to confirm: Cattle and sheep might get sick from a plant that wouldn’t bother a goat.

When you look at books that talk about poisonous plants to livestock, a lot of the data are from cattle or sheep. If you see goats eating pokeweed and say, “Wait a minute this is a poisonous plant [to livestock]” — it doesn’t affect goats.

So bring on the goats!

Here in North Carolina I have done work to clear up pastures and an abandoned orchard. We used goats, and they did a wonderful job getting rid of all the invasive vegetation: broadleaf weeds, woody perennials like greenbrier, honeysuckle, black locust, multiflora rose. We have cleared areas full of kudzu [an incredibly invasive vine native to Asia]. We grazed several plots about six times from early June to early October and basically got rid of the kudzu. Maybe 3 percent of it grew back the next year. But if you want to get rid of plants with goats, you have to start early in the spring and [have the goats] defoliate everything, get rid of all the leaves. So the plant has to use root reserves to make the first leaves. And if you do that over and over, these plants spend all of their root reserves and cannot grow anymore.

But I guess you do have to be careful that goats won’t eat plants you like.

If you leave the goats there all the time maybe they will be a little hungry and if they don’t have any green matter to eat, they will start to debark trees because they know the sap is under the bark. They will kill trees. That’s good or bad, depending on the trees.

Can any plant harm a goat?

A lot of ornamental plants are poisonous to goats. Piedmont azalea are not going to necessarily kill goats unless they eat a lot but would make them really sick and throw up. Once they have that experience they would stay away from these plants.

There are a lot of goats in the developing world. Do people there use goats to clear unwanted vegetation?

In Africa they don’t use goats to clean a pasture. But they do use the boughs of whatever woody shrubs are around to feed their goats.

Do goats eat tin cans?

Naw, it’s just a joke. They are very curious. And so they are going to try to eat a lot of things that we see as crazy. But even when they see a piece of plastic they are not going to eat it. They just take it in their mouth and spit it out.

So no to plastic. What about paper?

We had a student working in one of the pastures at a little station where we used to record temperature, soil moisture, wind speed in a notepad. The student put the notepad down to do something with one goat. When she turned around, one month of data had disappeared! She thought she would be fired on the spot. We laughed so hard.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Originally posted here: 

Go Ahead, Little Goat, Eat Some Poison Ivy. It Won't Hurt A Bit

Hyde: Seattle is the hope, New England the Super Bowl pick

My heart says Seattle. My heartburn says New England.

My heart says Seattle will win Sunday’s Super Bowl, because it’s fun and fresh and plays football with an old-fashioned snarl.

My heartburn says New England, because it’s bland and repressive and still plays football with an old-fashioned snarl.

My heart says Seattle, because Pete Carroll is a healthier and much more positive role model for football coaches to follow than the publicly dismissive, openly dictatorial Bill Belichick.

My heartburn says New England, because Belichick’s mind had two weeks to arrange defensive chess pieces against a Seattle offense with pedestrian receivers and the power running of Marshawn Lynch.

My heart says Seattle, because the inanity of this Super Bowl should end with NBC’s Bob Costas asking amid the post-game confetti, “Why are you MVP?” and Lynch saying, “You know what I did” and Costas saying, “Why are you MVP?” and Lynch saying, “You know what I did,” and Costas saying …

My heartburn says New England, though NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell having to hand the trophy to ex-BFF and Patriots owner Robert Kraft would make for an entertaining victory scene, too.

My heart says Seattle, because it delivered the magic of sports with the unlikely way it beat Green Bay to advance.

My heartburn says New England, because it delivered the black magic of Deflate-gate in beating Indianapolis to advance.

My heart says Seattle, because it will return football to the 1990s throwback theme of, “Defense wins championships.”

My heartburn says New England, because quarterback Tom Brady will judiciously use running back LeGarrette Blount on a Seattle defense that ranks 10th of the 12 postseason teams after yielding 133.5 yards rushing against Carolina and Green Bay.

My heart says Seattle, because its trademark, “The 12th Man,” celebrates its greater community.

My heartburn says New England, because its trademark, “The Patriots Way,” celebrates smug and arrogance.

My heart says Seattle, because it’s in a time zone far, far away in a division even further.

My heartburn says New England, because of the Dolphins Syndrome, which is the sports version of the Stockholm Syndrome. The Patriots have held the AFC East hostage for so long Dolphins fans have positive feelings for and are won over by them.

My heart says Seattle, because it had the organizational smarts and trust to dump troubled child Percy Harvin in the middle of the season when most teams would have kept his talent.

My heartburn says New England, because it obviously had a wink-wink deal in place for Blount to walk out on Pittsburgh in November and return to his place in the Patriots lineup.

My heart says Seattle, because Brady still has some explaining to do about Deflate-gate.

My heartburn says New England, because Brady is … well, let’s be serious, how can you dislike Brady except on the jealousy meter? He’s the George Clooney of sports. Rich. Good-looking. Married to a supermodel. And still throwing touchdowns at 37.

My heart says Seattle, because it’s easy to root for former Dolphins defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, a hard worker and good guy who regularly signs his Twitter messages with the whimsical, “#staysuckafree.”

My heartburn says New England, because you still wonder what Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland meant in releasing defensive end Rob Ninkovich because (as Ninkovich related), “We’re looking for another Larry Izzo.”

My heart says Seattle, because Richard Sherman is the Charles Barkley of football — loud, funny, genuine.

New England its the poison ivy of football — annual, aggressive, making you break out in a rash.

My heart says Seattle, because its special teams won the NFC title game with a fake field and an onside kick.

My heartburn says New England, because its special teams ranked third in the league, according to a Dallas Morning News formula, compared to Seattle ranking 17th.

My heart says Seattle, because it’s the way to root.

My heartburn says it will be New England 24, Seattle 20.

Copyright © 2015, Sun Sentinel

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Hyde: Seattle is the hope, New England the Super Bowl pick

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