The Dirt

Go Green with Goats?

Photo/Illustration: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Photo/Illustration: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

It’s all over the web on sites like Treehugger and Grist. Even Fox News is covering it. Google has goats on their lawn maintenance crew. The idea is to cut back on pollution from mowers, while also cutting costs. These rented goats serve several functions, such as grazing on open fields and meadows that pose potential fire hazards. They combat weed problems rather than using pesticides. They even fertilize as they go. But is this solution only for large areas of open land, or could it be a potential alternative for small homeowners, tired of noisy mowers that pollute the Saturday morning air? It takes Google roughly 200 rented goats to graze on the land behind their Mountain View, CA headquarters. Would one or two goats work for a small lot? And could you actually get the goats to eat only unwanted plants? A coworker mentioned to me that sheep might work better for grazing on grass. With all of these questions, would it really be worth it to even begin to think about renting or buying grazing animals to maintain a small yard? I would tend to think not, considering you also couldn’t guarantee that the animals would gnaw down the grass evenly without touching some tasty, expensive ornamentals in the garden.

On a larger scale, however, I definitely see the advantages. Back in 2007, The New York Times published a story on one Tennessee city that brought in goats to replace herbicides in their fight against invasive kudzu. If you travel north, Behave, a program at Utah State University, works to promote education on animal and human behavior as it relates to land management. The founders of this program seem to think that goats are only one alternative. Cows, sheep, and other grazing animals can also be used to solve land management problems if we use their diet and other behavioral traits to our advantage. So why not trade in mowers for a herd of furry friends? I’m no expert, but I think they would work especially well for those hard-to-reach areas like steep hillsides. But why not test it out with your own rented goat? And as always, come back and post your comments and/or grazing results.

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  1. dreamsinitalian 09/02/2009

    Speaking from the experience of raising dairy goats for 20+ years, if you decide to go this route keep in mind goats are more browsers, not grazers. This means they will eat your flowers, strip your trees and devour anything slightly pretty (and apparently delicious looking) before they take on your weeds and lawn. Keep the area you want them to focus on fenced off and away from anything nice you'd like to keep alive. Goats also need their diet supplimented with grain- they will not be healthy just living off of weeds. Goats are great, they're smart and don't smell- not to mention their milk is much healthier and tastier than cow's milk.

  2. Kate_Frank 09/08/2009

    Goats also eat things like tin cans, but they are so cute!

  3. papasnumber1 09/09/2009

    God love ya, but goats DO NOT eat tin cans! They might play around with 'em, but don't eat them. And yep, they are cute but can be a serious pain in the butt if one doesn't have the proper pen for them.

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