Herd of goats helping to increase butterfly population

The seven goats grazing near Parkway station.

South Gloucestershire Council has teamed up with local community group Street Goat to enhance an area of grassland and encourage wildlife to flourish. The site, which is located behind the Park and Ride car park on Hunts Ground Road, near Bristol Parkway Station, is normally covered with brambles but is now being cleared as the goats eat their way through it.

Four goats were introduced to the patch of land in January and have been working their way through the brambles and shrubs in order to encourage more wildflowers to grow. The purpose of this project is to increase the population of the small blue butterfly (Cupido minimus), an insect which has been declining over recent years and is classified as a ‘priority species’ in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. This species of butterfly feeds solely on a wildflower called kidney vetch which grows at the site near the car park. With the goats clearing the brambles and shrubs, this makes way for more kidney vetch to grow which will then hopefully increase the numbers of small blue butterflies.

Kidney vetch is easily recognisable as clusters of small yellow flowers sitting atop little woolly cushions and the council will be able to see if the project has worked when the plants flower between June and September. To help speed up the process, four more goats have now been introduced onto the land, however, a female goat fell pregnant so she has been moved to join a herd of milking goats.  In total there are currently seven goats grazing in the area and creating space for the growth of the kidney vetch.

The goats are very friendly and members of the public are more than welcome to visit and feed them. If you would like to do so, it is asked that food given is placed in a bucket and not on the ground. They like to eat greens, such as:

  • Outer cabbage leaves
  • Kale
  • Brussels stalks
  • Broccoli
  • Carrot tops

Children from the local community visiting the goats.

Whilst the goats are grazing, access to the site is restricted to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare and public safety. However, if you would like access to the site, you can do so by becoming a volunteer goat herder which involves helping to monitor the goats and reporting any issues to Street Goat.

This project has followed the success of a similar project at Wick Golden Valley Nature Reserve in January 2017. There, eight goats spent two months grazing their way through brambles and ivy to make way for a wider variety of wildflowers. Once spring, and then summer arrived, the increased growth of rarer wildflowers was clear to see and the project was deemed a success. Lynne Davis, project manager, explained: “The goats are males from the dairy industry. We’ve brought them here to help us out in adding biodiversity to this landscape. The boys have had a happy life thus far and it’s great they can enjoy this goat haven!”

For more information about the project or to help look after the goats, visit www.streetgoat.co.uk or email streetgoats@gmail.com

If you would like to go and see the goats, you will have to be quick as they are being moved shortly.

Photos: 1 The seven goats grazing at the site near Parkway Station. 2 Children from the local community visiting the goats.

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