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Do Cities Really Hire Goats for Brush Clearance?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Cities around the world do indeed hire goats for brush clearance from private contractors with witty names like “Rent a Ruminant” and “Dial-A-Goat.” In addition to providing goats to cities, many contractors also provide small herds to private individuals and government agencies like the highway department. There are a number of reasons why cities and individuals choose to hire goats for brush clearance, starting with cost: goats are usually much cheaper than mechanical means.

When goats are hired to clear brush and other flammable materials, the contractor usually establishes a boundary with electric fencing. Sometimes, fencing surrounds the whole area to be cleared, and sometimes a series of rotating pens are set up to ensure that the goats nibble everything all the way down to the ground. The contractor may simply leave the goats on-site, or someone may stay with the goats to ensure that they stay out of trouble. After all the brush has been cleared, the goats are loaded up and taken to a new location.

Goats have a number of advantages over human labor. The first is that goats can hit hard-to-reach areas, thoroughly clearing a region that humans might gloss over. They also clear everything indiscriminately, including tough brush and thorny invasive plants. Hiring goats for brush clearance also tends to be less expensive than hiring people who must be paid an hourly wage on top of being insured in case of injuries. They are also more environmentally friendly; while goats do leave deposits on site, they are biodegradable, and goats do not emit combustion-related pollutants like those generated by tractors and weed whackers.

Many cities turn to goats for brush clearance because they are viewed as environmentally friendly, and the city wants to set a good example for citizens. Private institutions like museums and colleges may also use goats for much the same reason, and as part of a larger goal to go “green” by using environmentally friendly methods to maintain their facilities. Typically the choice to use goats for brush clearance also attracts attention from the local media, making it instant free press.

Contractors are typically willing to bring goats almost anywhere, although they will visit the site first to ensure that it is safe and to estimate the number of goats needed. When goats are used for brush clearance along roadways, additional fencing or privacy screening may be used to protect the goats from traffic, and so that drivers do not gawk at the goats or grow concerned about their safety.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Sep 30, 2014

@Grivusangel -- That poor animal! Goats are herd animals and generally social creatures. The poor goat was probably lonely and stressed out because he didn't have another goat or two for company.

I'm sure no one meant to mistreat him, and I'm glad he had ample shelter, but it's so sad that a herd animal didn't have any company. It's possible that he was kind of a bully and mistreated other herd members, so that was a way for him to continue to be useful, but I still feel sorry for him. People need to research an animal's needs before they keep them like that.

By Grivusangel — On Sep 30, 2014

There was a grassy drainage area next to one of our local grocery stores. The owners got a large billy goat to keep the grass down. He did a great job. He had a constant source of water and they built him a little house so he had shelter and protection.

He was a resident until the drainage area was cleared for building. He wasn't a very friendly goat, in spite of all the efforts of the visiting kids to coax him to the fence for a treat and a pat. Clearly, he really wanted to be left alone and do his job of keeping the grass short in that area. He did a bang-up job of it, too! Makes me want a goat for my yard!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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