Trading in Your Lawnmower for a Goat?
By Teresa Ambord
It’s trendy these days to talk about letting goats do your yard work. Google hires a 200-goat herd to clear their grounds of brush. There’s even a successful company known as Rent-a-Goat. But while there are many good reasons to own goats, lawn care isn’t one of them. So before you head to Craigslist to sell your lawnmower and buy a goat, there’s a lot to know about these animals.
GoatsDenise 041“Goats make wonderful pets,” said Dr. Heather Evans, a local mobile-veterinarian. “They’re loaded with personality. But they aren’t grazers like cows or sheep. Goats are browsers.” They’d rather eat brush and trees, and things you don’t want them to eat, like your vegetable garden.
Even if they do eat your grass, the results probably won’t be what you expected.
Your Dream Lawn?
If you envision a well-manicured lawn with goats doing all the work, think again. Denise, a resident of Cottonwood —and a client of Dr. Evans —has several goats. They seldom eat grass, but they do make a mess of it, she said. “They pound it down to nothing and leave bare spots.” That’s because they like to sleep on the ground.  Plus, of course, your lawn will also be the goats’ toilet.
GoatsDenise 043Rather than grass, Denise feeds her goats hay, and sometimes willow leaves. “But their favorite occasional treat,” she said, “is Doritos.”
Now, if you want goats for clearing brush, that’s a different story. According to Dr. Evans, goats are phenomenal for brush control. “They climb and they eat things other animals won’t eat, like Manzanita.” But they’ll also eat plants that are poisonous to them — like tomato vines, oleander, and rhododendron – so it’s critical to check before putting them to work clearing.
Denise and her husband brought goats in to clear brush. “This place was covered with blueberry brush, and now there’s none,” she said.” And the willow tree looks well-trimmed from below, because the goats eat all they can reach.”
What Else Should You Know?
GoatsDenise 051Goats are social animals, so you’ll need at least two. They hate getting wet, so plan on providing a rain shelter. And they are vulnerable to predators, so proper fencing is crucial. Denise even brought in a precocious llama —named Freeno — the self-appointed goat security guard.
“Be prepared to have hoof prints on you,” said Denise. “If you lean over, the small ones will hop on your back because they love to be up high.”  They also love to snuggle. That’s the job of Denise’s granddaughter Lily. Lily especially loves to snuggle with her favorite goat, Barbie. The small herd also includes Daisy, the camera hog, Rick who Denise calls the “bad-boy,” and several more goat friends that all want tender loving care.
Raising goats can be fun, but it’s not something to enter into lightly. If you’re up for the commitment and are prepared, go ahead and get some goats, but forget selling your lawnmower.  Instead, sell your TV, because watching your goats will be far better entertainment.