For lower elementary school students: How can what goats eat help people and the environment?

Hi! My name is Katie, and I am a scientist.  That means that I try to understand how things work.  Right now I am trying to understand how what goats eat can help people and the environment.


This is my friend Banner. He is a goat.

Many goats live on farms with other animals such as cows, horses, sheep, and chickens.  They provide humans with milk and meat.  People also make clothing out of their hair.

Sometimes in books or cartoons you might see pictures of goats eating the paper off tin cans, but goats do not really do this.  Goats like to eat plants. Goats like to eat leaves from plants with hard stems, like trees or bushes, but they will also eat other plants.



These goats are eating a problem plant with hard stems called common buckthorn.  It prevents other plants like wildflowers from growing.

Sometimes people use what goats like to eat to help get rid of plants that are problems.  Some plants can be problems because they grow too much and don’t let other plants grow.  Some plants can also be problems if they become dry and catch on fire.  When goats eat these plants, people do not need to remove these plants themselves.  If you have ever helped weed a garden, you know how hard this work can be for people.


Do you like to eat something that your friend does not like to eat? Goats also have foods that they like to eat more than others. Bear the goat likes to eat a problem plant called garlic mustard, even though it is too spicy for some other goats.

My favorite time of year is the summer, when I follow goats that are eating problem plants in the woods in Minnesota.  We put markers on plants, and see how much the goats eat.  We also look at all of the different plants and see how the goats change what plants are growing.


These goats are working together to eat the leaves from a tree.

I love my job, and getting to spend time outside.  In the winter it gets very cold in Minnesota, and I stay inside and try to understand the things I learned during the summer.  I also write about the things I learn so other people can also understand them.

This year I did get to do some work outside in the winter.  The goats like to eat the outside of trees during the winter, and we are measuring what happens to the trees when the goats do this.  It can be very cold outside, so I wear lots of clothing to stay warm.  The goats don’t need to wear clothes.  They grow very thick coats of hair to keep them warm in the winter when they are outside.


This is my friend, Banner, eating the fruits from a buckthorn problem plant.  This plant got its scientific name from the fact that eating the berries makes people sick, but goats like them.


This is a showy orchid that grows at one of the places where I follow the goats.  I love seeing these flowers in the spring.

If you like being outdoors, you might one day enjoy being a scientist who studies nature.  You can start by paying attention to the things that live near you, even if you live in a city.  I spend most of my time outdoors in city parks in a place called the Twin Cities, and have seen many beautiful things there.  If you do not know if you like being outdoors, you might want to join a girl or boy scout troop.  I learned that I liked being outdoors when I went camping with my girl scout troop.


I met these goat kids days after they were born.





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