Friday, June 22, 2012

Within the next two weeks, we will enlarge our staff with four..........


Last spring (2011) I suggested using goats to manage poison ivy and brush in the wooded and natural areas throughout the course. I thought that goats would be a better alternative than drenching these areas with herbicides that in turn could hurt the trees and other desirable plants, and maybe the birds and other wildlife that have come to live in these areas. At first the suggestion was taken lightly by the club, but in time, it began to make sense, and late last fall I was given the ok to give it a try!

Goats are not new to me. I have a small “farm”, and years ago I adopted a dwarf Nubian goat. One goat doesn’t make a herd, nor does it make me an expert, but from “Snoops” I learned a lot about goats – their personalities, management, diet, uses, etc. Over the years, goats have become one of my favorite animals, even surpassing dogs.  Fact is, some goats are smarter than dogs, and at some things, are more useful. Goats don’t chase geese so much, but they have other positives, such as the ability to browse, and an independent attitude. They are also affectionate and form very tight and life lasting bonds with people and other animals such as horses.

The term “got your goat!” comes from the race track. Years ago, a goat would be stalled with a nervous race horse as a companion to keep it calm and to give it a bit of playful company and in time the bond between the horse and goat would become very strong. Sometimes a competing horse owner would have the goat stolen right before race day, upsetting the horse enough so that it wouldn’t race well....hence, “got your goat!”

There are many types and breeds of goats for all kinds of uses. There are breeds for milking, showing, hair (for “wool”), meat, cart pulling, and security! Some goats are used as pack animals since they are sturdy and sure footed.

I chose to use Boer goats for this project – Boers are a meat goat breed that originated in South Africa, and the breed is known to be very hardy in all types of climates and environments. Last fall I put a reserve on three kid does (female babies) from “Just Kiddin Around” farm, located near Allentown PA. Kidding season was late this spring, and I wasn’t able to pick up the goats till the first week of June. Although I had reserved three, I ended up taking four, all 3 months old. That’s four lucky little goats – Irene, Francis, Mary, and Lucy - that otherwise would have been fattened up shipped off to be  dinner.

Since they have been on my farm, I have spent time getting them used to people and to being handled. I have also been slowly taking them off grain and onto hay and browse. At the farm they are fed sugary grain to fatten them up and to get them to market quicker - so in a funny twist, they needed to be introduced to their natural diets.

Hard for some to believe, but goats don’t eat everything.... Goats don’t eat tin cans or tires or cars. They are not the best grass eaters either, but prefer to browse on leaves of most deciduous plants. This includes brush, ivy, and trees. Many plants though, such as yews, laurel, and azaleas are poisonous to goats. Goats are not indestructible as some people might think. Still, their ability to consume poison ivy, wild rose, green briar, etc makes them seem so.

My plan is to put the goats in the naturalized area between holes 8-9-10 and let them get used to things around here. I will start with two, then in a week or so, bring in all four. We will eventually move them to the wooded and overgrown brush areas along holes 7 and 8. We will use temporary, moveable fencing to keep them in the area we want cleared. They won’t be staying overnight – too many problems with pranks and predators could occur - I will be taking them back and forth each day.

The best thing to do with the goats is to just watch them, enjoy them, and let them be – please do not feed them any treats. If your ball lands in their fenced in area, please take a drop. Please do not go into the fenced area. Although the goats won’t harm you, its best not to pester them.

I am really excited about doing this! Goats are a great alternative to herbicides, fit nicely with our Audubon program, and will be a lot of fun while we reclaim areas of the course!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

June 5, 2012

Probably the hardest decision I make is after a rain storm, and whether or not to make playing the course “cart paths only”. I know that it slows play. I know too that it hurts revenue and increases the cost of course set up and labor since rangers need to come in, ropes moved, and signs put out. I know all too well that some members are unable to play when they can’t take their carts onto the fairways or through the rough. All carts are capable of causing damage, so those persons with physical disabilities must stay on cart paths too.

Yet, I also know the damages – both short and long term – which traffic can cause on wet soils. Without getting boringly technical, a saturated soil can be compacted without very much pressure, and when this happens, drainage, root space, air space, etc are reduced or lost. The turf grows weak, and weak turf is prone to moisture stress and disease. The risk of future turf loss is substantially increased. The problem is that loss of turf shows up later, which may be days, weeks, or months away from the initial event. By then, everyone has long forgotten the rainy day I let carts out.

Another damage is disease. Fungi flourish in wet environments, and can be “tracked” or carried down a fairway or through the rough on tires (our equipment as well as carts)! One infection, uncontained, can be spread. Some diseases, such as pythium, can kill turf within minutes of infection, and then spread by water and traffic, can easily become uncontrollable and devastate the course.

When I make the cart path decision, I try to balance the short and long term effects on both the membership and the course, and I always do my best to look after both. It’s not easy, and though some members will always disagree, I am always trying to do the right thing.

There is no reason to take it out on me, as some do.