I support using goats to clean up cemeteries instead of lawn equipment that are chipping away at our museum quality tombstones! What do you think!
Goats Replace Landscapers At Congressional Cemetery
“Eco-goats” eat invasive species and other problem vegetation. (Courtesy of the Congressional Cemetery)
Summer is the busy season for landscapers, and an unusual group of them were recently let loose on the perimeter of the historic Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Fifty-eight goats spent a week at the cemetery to clean up poison ivy, invasive kudzu vines and English ivy that were killing some trees.
Officials say the goats were a lot less expensive than people — about $4,000 for a whole week, which works out to 25 cents per hour per goat.
“The revolutionary use of eco-goats eliminates the need for harmful herbicides and prevents the invasive and often foreign species from killing large mature trees in the cemetery’s wooded area, which can fall onto the grounds as a result and damage invaluable historic headstones,” reads a note on the cemetery’s website.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
It’s HERE AND NOW.
Summer is the busy season for landscapers, and an unusual group of them were recently let loose on the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
(SOUNDBITE OF GOATS)
HOBSON: Those were goats. Fifty-eight of them spent a week at the cemetery to clean up invasive species – poison ivy, kudzu, English ivy – that was killing some trees. Cemetery officials say the goats were a lot less expensive than people, about $4,000 for a whole week. Brian Knox is the supervising forester for the company Eco-Goats that owns the goats. And, Brian, what exactly do they do?
BRIAN KNOX: We specialize in problem vegetation management. And goats are very good at eating mostly invasive vegetation. I mean, you can put a goat almost anywhere, but where they really excel are sites that have almost nothing that you want to save and are too difficult to get to with machinery or dangerous for people or sites where people don’t want to go because of thorns or poison ivy or bees or whatever.
HOBSON: But the goats like eating that stuff.
KNOX: The goats love it. And thorns don’t seem to be an issue. They work around them really well. They can eat poison ivy. They can go up and down steep slopes. They can climb trees. They’re really ideal for the real hard problem sites.
HOBSON: Now, when they eat poison ivy, do they not get a rash like we would if we were to touch poison ivy?
KNOX: No, it doesn’t bother them a bit. The real danger is that the oils do stay on their coats. And of course the first thing they want to do is come rub up against me after they’ve been in it…
HOBSON: Now, what do they cost? Because obviously if it was so cheap and such a great option, everyone would do it, I think.
KNOX: Well, it’s – every site is slightly different as far as cost because the vegetation is – the density of the vegetation changes, the species change, the amount of work it takes to get set up changes. So you know, on some sites, they’re far cheaper than doing it manually, and on other sites, you know, I can run what we call our iron goat through, which is a walk-behind brush hog, cheaper…
HOBSON: Your iron goat.
KNOX: It’s a machine that’s about three foot by three foot. It’s a mower on steroids. And if you can push something over, it’ll cut it. So for the cost of getting a set-up, I can sometimes mow a site just as cheaply. So we try to balance what’s going to get the client the solution they want at the most realistic price.
HOBSON: What are the downsides of goats?
KNOX: Well, they’re very broad spectrum. They’ll eat your oak and your cherry and your poplar right along with your mile-a-minute and your multiflora rose.
HOBSON: So they don’t discriminate.
KNOX: Not at all. If I could train them to say, guys, we’re going to eat this today, I’d be a very rich man. But no, they don’t really listen to me much.
HOBSON: So do you see a big switch over to goats from herbicides and other things in the next 10 years?
KNOX: You know, it’s catching on with lots of different organizations and – especially for fire control or in sensitive areas with lots of water or even within endangered species.
HOBSON: What is their favorite weed to eat?
KNOX: They’re kind of – it depends a little bit on the day of the week and the time of the year. Generally speaking I would say goats like to eat bittersweet – oriental bittersweet. They like to eat multiflora rose. They like – poison ivy rates very high on most goats’ list. It will eat grass. But if there’s woody vegetation, they prefer it.
In the spring time, tulip poplar and sweet gum are kind of like crack cocaine to a goat. They – which is unfortunate because those are species we’d want to keep. But if they can get at them, they’ll shove them over, strip the bark, eat every leaf they can reach. And I have to be pretty careful with them.
HOBSON: Brian Knox is the supervising forester for the company Eco-Goats. Brian, thanks so much for talking with us.