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Not a Baaahhhd Idea: Using Goats to Mow Your Lawn

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Photo by Linda Ly
Photo by Linda Ly

Well, they're certainly cuter than a lawnmower. They're also more sustainable than a gas-powered mower, less messy than a leaf blower, and they can get into places your weed whacker can't. No kidding — goats are actually a viable option in Los Angeles County, whether you need your lawn pulled up (look into the Landscape Incentive Program from LADWP to help cover the costs) or an entire hillside of brush cleared (a good way to "pre-graze the blaze," according to Fire Grazers Inc., a Los Angeles service that specializes in fire brush management).

With Santa Ana winds approaching our unprecedented dry season, brush clearing on large lots is not only a preventive measure, but a necessary one. Typically this can include the use of noisy mowers, noxious chemicals, and humans risking poison oak contact. But a goat-powered crew is more ecologically (and economically) sound, and nourishes hardened clay soils as well.

Goats that free-range all day have a varied and healthy diet, which in turn produces healthy manure. If you want to rip up your lawn to put in an edible garden, this gets the prep work done in one shot — no need to truck in your own fertilizer. (As a bonus, you'll even know exactly what went into that fertilizer; it's as organic as it comes.)

Goats are voracious eaters and will clear your yard of anything that looks appetizing: grass, weeds, brambles, stickers, sagebrush, poison oak, and stems and twigs. Of course, "anything" also applies to things you might actually want to keep in your yard, like saplings, flowers, and berries. They are especially handy for removing invasive species from your property or creating fire breaks in hilly areas, but are less effective in a more manicured space.

The hardworking weed-eaters have been used by everyone from Google (who employed a team of 200 goats at their Mountain View headquarters to clear brush from nearby fields) to the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (who's been hiring goats since 2008 to control a steep, unruly hillside in Bunker Hill). Google says their natural landscaping crew costs the same as mowers (but with the benefit of organic fertilizer delivered at no extra charge), while the Community Redevelopment Agency says the goats save the city over $3,000 in weed killers and weed whackers. On top of that, they bring smiles to all the harried commuters coming and going on the Metro.

If your city doesn't yet allow backyard goat-keeping (and as they say, why buy the goat when you can rent one?), the County of Los Angeles Fire Department has put together a 2013 Goat Vendor List where you can source your own four-legged contractors, no matter where you are in the state.

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