Andover, Massachusetts is starting a pilot project that will use grazing goats to maintain a 3.5-acre meadow. Photo by Jon Stammers via Flickr.
A Boston suburb is sidelining commercial mowers in favor of a local farmer's goats to maintain a public meadow. Six dairy goats will chow down on a 3.5-acre meadow that is part of the Virginia Hammond Reservation, a conservation area in Andover.
The plan makes sense on several levels. It will cut out carbon emissions that previously accumulated from the use of commercial mowers. Not only will the plan cost the city nothing, they'll save on the cost of labor, gas, and equipment maintenance.Bright Idea from Andover's Conservation Commission
The idea for this project came from Bob Douglas, director of Andover's Conservation Commission. According to a report in the Andover Townsman, Douglas used to commute through nearby Lexington, Mass., where a herd of about 100 sheep were used to maintain a historic green space, and he thought that program could be transplanted to Andover.
In terms of logistics, the plan is relatively simple. The six diary goats, owned by local farmer Lucy McKain, will be walked down the road from McKain's farm to the nearby meadow. They'll graze for a while, before heading home.
A semi-permanent fence will go up around the space to keep the goats from wandering, and any goat droppings will be left as a natural fertilizer.
If a success, the pilot project could end up expanding to include other animals in other conservation spaces in and around Andover.
Plan Aids Massachusetts Meadow Conservation
The plan for managing the meadow will help preserve the vanishing field areas in Massachusetts.
Bob Douglas, the director of the Conservation Commission, told the Andover Townsman that Massachusetts is growing more wooded, reducing the total area of fields in the state.
It may not seem like such a huge problem, but it is; fields provide spaces for nesting for many birds.
Natural Land Management
McKain's six goats may sound like a cute and quaint alternative to machinery, but they're grass-eating powerhouses. The half-dozen goats will be able to clear about one-half acre of grass, brush, and growth in just three days.
The project is a move back to a tried and true practice Conservation Commission special project manager Bob Decelle told the Andover Townsman:
It's really a win-win for everybody with these situations. Farms have done this for centuries. It's really nothing new, in that regard.
It's a simple solution that will benefit everyone, said Douglas:
At the end of the day, we'll have a bunch of fat, happy goats, and a nice clean field.
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