If you've been in Washington State recently you might have noticed something a little furry. That’s because the University of Washington is doing a bit of gardening… not with pesticides and gas-guzzling lawnmowers, but with goats.
We kid you not. A herd of 60 goats romped through the main campus in August, delighting in weeds like blackberry bushes, ivy, and salal (a hemlock relative). The goats were hired by the university’s Integrated Pest Management program, which seeks to find pest-ridding alternatives to chemical processes. The UW's Bothell campus hired goats a few weeks earlier, and is considering acquiring a permanent herd. Not only are goats cheaper than human labor, but they also provide free fertilizer. The university says that they are using goats as a way to cut its carbon emissions.
The goats, owned by Vashon Island’s Rent-A-Ruminant, are one of two popular herds that have been weeding Washington state all summer. Healing Hooves owner Craig Madsen and his 270 goats mowed the UW’s Bothell campus earlier this year. Goats can eat up to eight pounds of leafy greens a day.
“They are just eating machines,” Rent-A-Ruminant owner Tammy Dunakin told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Goats have four-chambered stomachs, and love to munch on anything even remotely resembling a plant. “They suck down blackberry vines like it was spaghetti. I don’t understand it, (but) the thorns don’t bother them at all.”