Goats Are the New Emissions-Free Mowers

Goat for Rent photo
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Goats for rent photo credit Goat Rental NW.

Smack dab in the middle of downtown Portland, Oregon, on the corner of SE 11th Avenue and Belmont, there's a small herd of goats that are doing what they do naturally - eating grass and weeds. The goat herd has attracted lots of attention from neighbors, however, and their grass eating, says the local Portland weekly Willamette Week, is brilliant in "any number of ways." They are emissions-free mowers that give relief from the gas-powered tractor, and have a specialty in chomping up pernicious and invasive blackberry vines.


Photo credit A. Streeter.

Basically, the goats are managing the grass and the weeds on this two-acre lot in the middle of the city (It was previously a restaurant that burned down and was not rebuilt). And they are doing it without the need for fossil fuels, or the annoying noise pollution of two-stroke engines. Also, amazingly, the goats are said to neutralize any weed seeds they don't digest - leading to less weeds next year. Basically, what they leave behind is just a few goat turds.

Bret Milligan, who works at GreenWorks landscape architects, brokered a deal for the goats to do the work that mowers would. He says those goat turds might, at this particular lot, even have a beneficial effect.

"The deposition of goat droppings help to enrich and accelerate the productive capacity of urban soils, which if repeated over time, could facilitate the nurturing of second stage vegetation (slower growing vegetation that tends to appear after pioneer/ruderal vegetation have prepared the ground)."

To make the deal work, Milligan was required to provide some of the care and maintenance of the goat herd in order to keep the price amenable for the lot owner. While Goat Rental NW told this newspaper that using goats to clean up a landscape is an old idea, the company said it's gaining adherents in urban areas.

But what was more surprising to Milligan and others was how popular the mid-town goats became with onlookers and neighbors, who gathered daily to watch the goats. They became what Milligan termed 'a public amenity' with many onlookers asking curiously (and somewhat longingly?) how long the goats would hang around. Estimate were for just a couple of weeks, but now we are past two weeks, and the goats are still eating. Though the lot looks a lot better, it isn't completely tamed. Unfortunately, people feeding the goats has extended the task, as lot clearing is slightly harder work than being hand fed. One upside of the attention, Milligan says, is that passersby are actually helping weed the areas outside the storm fence by pulling up grass and weeds and sticking them through the fence holes to entice the goats to come by.

The goats themselves are mostly stray goats that the owner of Goat Rental NW bought from animal agencies in order to build up a herd for eco-landscape management. Unfortunately, if you were hoping to rent a goat to tame your backyard, the minimum price for getting the herd to you is $300.