By Alistair Stevenson, LaTrobe University
About a decade ago, the present landholders moved to their current property in the Upper Murray region. Their property was once part of a large sheep operation. When they purchased it, there were masses of blackberry infestations in the forested country and gullies. The infestation was mainly within the forested hilly terrain of the property; with limited access as tracks along the hillside were either degraded or overgrown with blackberry. Being enthusiastic to mange the problem, the owners became involved in the community blackberry program. This program is a community led approach, and has evolved in Victoria due to a desire by communities to take action in controlling blackberry. (Learn More about the VBT) or http://www.vicblackberrytaskforce.com.au/
The owners were offered assistance to establish access tracks. This, in their opinion, has been the most helpful form of assistance that they could have received as it has allowed them easier access to spray and also allows them to check and manage their goat herd, which has been used to manage the blackberry.
The landowners purchased some goats (Bore x ferals) to help control blackberry and the goats have worked well in conjunction with other management tools such as access tracks and spraying. They have found that the goats will preferentially graze the blackberry canes over prime pastures. Due to grazing, they’ve had virtually no flowers or fruit set and the blackberry thickets have been greatly reduced by the goat’s preference for blackberry and the need to spray has been reduced.
Although a success story in the controlling of blackberry, there have been some challenges along the way. Goats, due to their nature, require appropriate fencing to contain them. Thus the landowners had an initial outlay in repairing old fences and constructing new boundary fences and also in purchasing the initial goats. Goats also require a high level of husbandry to perform. They have also needed to electrify their boundary fences to contain the goats and also to keep wild dogs out.