Four-Legged Environmentalists

Last week, on my way to the Geary Ave. post office to drop off my Q2 tax payment my eyes beheld the strangest sight. I checked my rear view mirror, then stopped the car mid-street, and backed up a bit to get another look.

On the west facing hillside of Lone Mountain, on the U of SF grounds, I spied a tribe of goats. Had I not gotten enough sleep? Did someone slip me something in my morning juice? Was this some kind of prank played by outgoing graduates? Was it the experimental work of some progressive agriculture program at the school? No, no, no…and no.

City Grazing

What I beheld was city grazing. This tribe appeared to be about 20 goats or so in size…with plenty of cute little kids kickin’ around. Thanks to a temporary sign posted near the locale, with their name on it, the truth was revealed. When I returned home I looked up their website, and discovered a business that provides goats for beneficial purposes, primarily weed control in city settings. Amusingly, they’ve also recently been referred to as “Rent-a-Goat”.

Apparently, according to their website, we have the City of Denver to thank for their trailblazing work in the field of raising city goats for these purposes. And, the most compelling benefit of using goats for this is that “fifty goats average 1/2 acre per 8 hour day”. WOW!!!

City Grazing Sign

Here are some other key benefits noted on their website:

Why use goats in San Francisco?
There have been various approaches to weed control, none fully satisfactory nor efficient. Using goats is an efficient, holistic, environmentally healthy approach to weed control allowing us to restore degraded land in a shorter period of time.

How do goats help restore natural areas?
Using goats is based on a natural process, like bison grazing the prairie. Goats eat dried and fresh above- ground plant parts. They break plants down into digestible pieces by their saliva. Their hoof action also tramples plants into smaller pieces. Plants slowly decompose releasing nutrients into the soil. Goats also work desired seeds into soil with their hooves. Goats can restore large areas in a shorter time period than people.

Why is using goats environmentally healthy?
Grazing is an alternative to mowing and herbicides. Goats eat plants, eliminating debris and recycling nutrient elements. They maintain beneficial soil organisms. Goats exclude the use of heavy equipment minimizing soil disturbance and compaction. Goats trample dried brush, create a natural mulch and add organic matter to the soil.

Goats are best used in sensitive areas near waterways, rivers and lakes where chemicals are prohibited; on steep embankments difficult for people; on ditches, canals, rocky and wooded areas where mowing or spraying are difficult or inadvisable; in large areas where manpower is unavailable and costly; on very degraded land where human efforts would take years.

Hand weeding can disturb soil, bringing more weed seeds to the surface; creates plant debris that goes to landfills; extracts nutrients from the soil; disturbs soil organisms; and is labor intensive. Mowing uses heavy equipment that compacts soil; creates air pollution; leaves stubble, does not eliminate plant. Herbicides may contaminate ground water; may kill or disturb soil organisms; do not allow seeding at same time; may damage desired vegetation; may have risk to personnel.

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SO, keep you eyes glued for city grazing in your hood!

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3 comments so far

  1. todaysnewsart on

    Wow. This is interesting–definitely one of the cooler things I’ve seen a city do in awhile. It’s great if it reduces the use of pesticides and other awful things that are put into the soil, insects, etc. Plus, goats are kinda cute and fun to look at. I imagine that they make people happier (probably delusional). But, I mean, they can be a friend to the homeless.

  2. Aaron on

    Shut up! I don’t even think I could imagine seeing goats along Lakeshore Drive in Chicago…I mean, really.

    It is quite the eco-idea though…kudos to San Francisco (and you’re very cool mayor would be governor)!

  3. Photography Art Cafe on

    This is fantastic. I hope it’s still running. Lots of schools and universities have ‘obsolete’ rules enabling certain people to keep goats on the central grass quad!
    Maybe not so loopy after all.

    Urban arable farming is taking off, perhaps the next step will be animals!


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