Visit a Vernon County park in the summer, and it’s likely Ben Robel’s team will be hard at work. His team? A herd of goats and sheep. “I didn’t want to get a real job after college. So I bought two goats and two goats has led to three hundred,” Robel says.
Robel runs Vegetation Solutions, a company that rents out herds of animals for vegetation control. Robel mostly works with private landowners, but he connected with Vernon County Conservationist Ben Wojahn and together they formed an unusual partnership. Robel’s goats and sheep are now working to control invasive plant species throughout the Vernon County Park System.
Wojahn explains, “The county board definitely looked at me funny a couple of years ago, but now I think they’re much more supportive and they were willing to take a chance on Ben and Ben and the crazy goat project.”
Robel says the advantage to using sheep and goats is they can chew vegetation in hard to reach places, and it’s environmentally friendly. He puts them in a small paddock to eat a two-to-three acre area for about a week to 10 days and then they get moved on to another area.
It’s an organic method, but it’s not easy. It takes people to monitor and move the herd. Robel explains, “Livestock are 24/7. It’s not like a lawnmower where you can just shut the turnkey off and they’re done.”
Wojahn says he does get feedback from his staff that they don’t feel like moving goats all of the time, but the county park system is starting to see a lot of benefits. Robel and Wojahn aren’t sheepish about the success of their partnership. Robel says, “I come and check on them as needed and there haven’t been any issues. It’s been a win-win for both of us.”