Goat Power

Yard work is kids' play for the weed eater with teeth

| July / August 2004

It's time to throw away the lawn mower. From country clubs to private yards, a new market is developing for goats as biocontrol agents to eliminate weeds. Just ask Jim Guggenhime. A 27-year-old sociology graduate of the University of Colorado, Guggenhime developed a fondness for goats while he was traveling in East Africa.

With a herd of 215, Guggenhime's company Nip It in the Bud has been eating its way to fame and fortune. And his is just one of at least three such companies in the United States.

Browsing goats are ideal for clipping back tough or poisonous weeds, shrubs, leaves, and twigs. First of all, goats eat grass last. And when they tackle weeds, they take the flowers and leaves, which stops the plants from seeding and photosynthesizing, but leave the stalks and roots in the soil, preventing erosion. This pattern allows landscapers using goats to seed native or more desirable plants, which can take root while the undesirables are under stress. If that doesn't have you sold, goats even provide free, organic fertilization and mineral-balancing irrigation water, in the form of urine.

Goat grazing is obviously a good choice for organic farms looking for alternatives to herbicides, but it's also attractive to home owners, be they rural or urban, who are choosing gentler means to control weeds. And now you don't need to own your own herd -- Guggenhime's services are pretty affordable at only one U.S. dollar per day per goat, plus setup and transportation.

Reprinted from Alternatives Journal (vol. 30, no. 3), a Canadian quarterly published at the University of Waterloo in Ontario that examines world environmental issues from a Canadian perspective. It is the publication of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada. Subscriptions: $35/yr. (6 issues) from 519/888-4442; www.alternativesjournal.ca