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Mystery Weed Fighter

Last post, we talked about weeds. Now, what would you say if you heard there was something out there that did the following?

  • Got rid of weeds
  • Spread high-quality fertilizer in so doing
  • Did just as good a job on steep, difficult spots as on the flat
  • Used no chemicals
  • Required no heavy machinery or permits, even for major jobs
  • Charmed onlookers

Are you stumped? The answer is goats. Now, before you laugh and dismiss all this (“Okay, that’s clever, but I’m not about to keep a herd of goats!”), you don’t have to keep them.

You rent them.

Here’s how it works. You call the goat people. They visit your site and take a look around to make sure their goats aren’t going to get sick on your particular bouquet, so to speak, of weeds. They set up a temporary corral and bring in the herd, periodically moving the corral as the goats make progress, following behind to pull by hand anything the herd didn’t eat. When the job is done, they load up the goats and go.

In the words of one blogger, this idea is both “hilarious and genius;” as such, it lends itself to a host of little witticisms. One creature’s labor is another creature’s feast. Don’t strain your back; it’s a goat snack. The tag line for California Grazing is, “Go green. Go goats.”

However, it’s not quite true what they say on GristList.org: “Anyone still caring for a clipped green lawn can lessen their enviro guilt by trading in weed-killing chemicals for a herd of goats.” The not-quite-true part is that first phrase: anyone still caring for a clipped green lawn. The average person on the residential end of a city is (probably?) not going to drop a grand a week on lawn care. According to Rent-a-Ruminant, a grand is about what it would cost. So – if you’re talking regular care of one of those clipped green lawns – the price of goats can’t compare to finding a used reel mower on Craiglist.

Even when it comes to land-clearing, goats aren’t necessarily cheaper. According to CostHelper.com, clearing a brushy, sloping parcel might run anywhere from $500 to $2,000 per acre; whereas Rent-a-Ruminant charges $725/ day (after a one-time mobilization fee of $325), figuring on 3 to 5 days to cover 1/4 acre with 60 goats.

Goats at work, a la Rent-a-Ruminant

Goats at work, a la Rent-a-Ruminant

One caveat to this analysis: to say “goats aren’t necessarily cheaper” doesn’t mean they aren’t ever cheaper. The cost of your brush-clearing project depends on a lot of variables, and no brush-clearing company – conventional or goat-based – will throw figures around (like we’re doing now) without first taking a look at your site. So take all this with a sizable grain of salt. It may be that the goats’ price tag is quite competitive in many, or even most cases.

Then again, it may be that price is not the main reason to employ goats.

Goats are quieter than back-hoes. They’re prettier; also, they’re alive. (There’s something valuable about that that’s hard to pin down.) Then, they not only clear brush, but fertilize the land as they do so, so you get two services in one. They have no problem getting into steep, otherwise hard-to-access spots, and they do so without disturbing the land. They don’t run on petrol (although presumably, the vehicles that truck them in do). And they don’t use chemicals. They’re, well, organic.

What do you think? Is this an idea worth trying? If you run a goat rental company (or know folks who do), can you speak to the cost comparison? Do you have goats of your own? Do you use them for weed control? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


About Healing Ponds Farm

Healing Ponds is 40 acres in Buxton, OR. Our farm store, Ludemans Farm & Garden Center, is in Beaverton. We do open-pollinated seeds, pastured eggs and meats, raw milk herd shares, chicks and a lot of other things.


2 thoughts on “Mystery Weed Fighter

  1. This is not easy where you have cash / food crops.

    Posted by Queue Farms | August 3, 2011, 6:33 am
    • True! Wow, yes, goats would definitely not be a good choice for fighting the weeds mixed in with crops. I mean, they’d eat the weeds all right… but only after they’d eaten the food.

      On the other hand, they could be useful for prepping a place where you planned to grow food, before you’d planted it. The initial clearing and fertilizing of the land. After that, not so much.

      Posted by Ludemans | August 3, 2011, 5:19 pm

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