By Dina Mishev | Natural Home | May/June
Goats as landscapers? "Why not?" says Fred Lamming, who owns Jackson, Wyoming-based Ewe4ic (pronounced "euphoric") Ecological Services with his wife, Lani. The Lammings' 2,000 cashmere goats have traveled throughout the Rocky Mountains ridding towns, subdivisions, private homes, wildlands, and parks of unwanted weeds. Munching on everything from leafy spurge to knapweed and thistles, the goats are a natural-and more thorough-alternative to herbicides.
"Goats are self-propelled units that are able to go where no machine can and few humans dare. Goats work during all seasons, in fair weather as well as when it is windy, dark, snowy, raining, and on all major holidays," explains Lani. "And they'll eat anything," says Fred, the former supervisor of the Teton County, Wyoming, Weed and Pest Control District. "A goat is a total farming machine."
The goats do much more than merely eat weeds. "The goats are full-service," Fred says. Using no fewer than 500 goats on an acre, the Lammings implement high-intensity grazing for short periods of time. In addition to removing weeds, the goats also aerate the ground with their hooves and tread in the native plant seeds the Lammings drop. The goats' manure and urine fertilizes the soil. No longer competing with weeds, native plants are able to suck up the nutrients. "Goats are just such beautiful animals and can help the land so much more than herbicides can," Fred says. "After three years, the land being managed by the goats will look better than any land treated with herbicides."
Although using goats for weed control is, over time, less expensive than herbicides, the Lammings find that most people have loftier reasons for hiring them. "More and more communities are looking to be good stewards of their land," Fred says. Suzanne Silverthorne, a spokeswoman for Vail, Colorado, where the Lamming's goats grazed last summer, says, "Cost did not drive our decision. We had been getting negative feedback from the community about our herbicide program and were looking for an alternative. The goats were just what we wanted. They did a great job."
"In all my years in weed and pest control, I never had anyone come up and hug a spray truck," says Fred. "But they will come up and hug a goat."