Mad Goat herd. Photo Carol Parker

Go big or go home, as the saying goes and those bringing goats and sheep to The Valley to graze on knotweed are going big.





Carole Parker, Warren, and shepherd Mary Beth Hebert have created Mad Goat, an LLC that is supporting the efforts of the Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston conservation commissions’ work to manage invasive knotweed throughout the Mad River watershed and The Valley.

This week, Parker reported that Mad Goat is now the proud owner of nine goats (four pregnant with likely twins), is renting 48 more goats, and 19 sheep. The goats/sheep arrived in The Valley on May 19.

“So, we’re managing three herds, totaling 76 with probably10 kids to come. And we have a very cute livestock trailer,” Parker said.

The herd of 48 goats is now set up at the old Fairgrounds site up and behind Lareau Swim Hole and will likely stay there in rotating paddocks on that large site. These animals come from Hunger Moon Farm, a Fairfield farm with pasture-raised meat goats serving local communities. 

“The small herd of nine we bought from another local Vermont farmer. They are currently located at the private landowner location in Waitsfield while they kid out. Once the kids come, this herd will be moved to Riverside Park and Wabanaki in Warren (Sugarbush snowmaking pond) and maybe elsewhere to work on smaller knotweed management areas. The plan is for all goats to graze each region three times over the season. Then we hope to winter over the small herd so that we start with some expert knotweed grazers for next year,” Parker explained.

She said that the herd of 19 sheep are rented from Chuda Dhaurali of Dhaurali Goats and they are doing well.

“I have learned sheep graze close to the ground so focus on grass first. Goats on the other hand graze up and are voracious knotweed eaters,” Parker said.




After this first season of using ruminants to help manage knotweed, Parker and Hebet would like to turn their LLC into a nonprofit, taking in males and other animals culled from  local dairy farms and training them to become grazers to support the Mad River Valley knotweed control effort.

“We hope to identify grants or engage in other “goat ambassador” businesses that might allow us to build a sustainable grazing business here in The Valley and develop a blueprint for a new agricultural opportunity benefitting the Vermont environment, Vermont farmers, and grazing animals. We are relying on donations from the Tri-Town Conservation Commission fundraising campaign through Friends of the Mad River as well as making our own capital investments to launch this effort. We will also seek in-kind donations of inexpensive equipment and feed to maintain our herd,” she added.

Parker hopes to have a few goats join her in the Warren Fourth of July parade for a “Goats Knot Weeds” float.

“Having learned that knotweed is a major threat to Vermont’s riparian environment, causing erosion of rivers and streams, as well as damage to infrastructure. I am truly excited about the tri-town’s knotweed pilot and learning whether grazing animals can help manage this problem in The Valley and beyond,” she added.