Backyard goats are the ultimate in eco-friendly lawnmowers. No gasoline; no electricity; goat lawnmowers just run on food...the weeds and grass they're mowing. And the popularity of goat lawnmowers is on the rise.
Mary Bowen, owner of Sunderland, Md.-based Green Goats and Prosperity Acres farm, says there are many benefits to landscaping with goats.
Traditional land-clearing methods like herbicide treatments and excavation services can have adverse effects on the environment. Goats offer an environmentally-friendly alternative that doesn't even require a permit in most cases.
Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are some of the goats’ favorite vegetation. This means clearing lands laden with dangerous plants that humans won't tackle is an easy job for goats.
"The benefits [of goat landscaping] are no harm to the environment, no chemicals, the goats process the poison plants through their stomach but it is not spread when they fertilize the ground," Bowen said.
So even the goat's poop, which may at first seem like a downside to goat-mowing, is safe and acts as fertilizer to keep your lawn healthy.
Goats eat up to 20 percent of their body weight each day. Having a goat on your homestead can be multipurpose. Goat milk and goat lawnmowing being two of the most beneficial purposes of residential goats.
In Maryland, Bowen is putting her herd of more than 70 goats to work through October to clear overgrown vegetation in various private and public areas across the state.
Want a goat lawnmower?
So how does one get a goat lawnmower? For residential properties, if your zoning allows it, getting your own backyard goat could be an option. Oakland, Portland, and Denver are just a few of the many cities that allow backyard dairy goats.
It may not yet be practical in most cities to contract goat mowing for residential property, however. Some large business properties, like Google, rent goats for mowing.
But anyone can use goats for larger land-clearing projects. You can contact a goat herder in your area who specializes in goat herd landscaping. They'll check for the density of weeds on the property, Bowen says. They'll also examine the size to be mowed and how many days and how many goats it will take to manage the property.
At that point, the goat herder can provide a contract and price for goat-mowing your land.
"The eat as high up as they can stand, then down to the ground," Bowen said. "The leave behind organic fertilizer for the ground and hardwood trees. They do not pollute the environment as do heavy equipment used in conventional landscaping/land clearing."
But the best part of goat-mowing might be the simplest.
"They are fun to watch," Bowen said.
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