Goats Battle Against Weeds
Crew of weed-eating goats offers an eco-friendly alternative for lawn care.
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Jim Guggenhime doesn't look much like a goat herder.
With wavy blond hair, chiseled good looks, khaki pants and a neatly pressed, button-down shirt, he looks more like, say, a University of Colorado sociology major.
But that was years ago.
After a life-changing trip to East Africa, where he discovered the "many virtues" of the notoriously ornery creatures, he took a life path that, he admits, his friends and family back in Colorado Springs are still puzzled about.
He started collecting goats. When his herd reached 215, he started renting them out as living, breathing weed eaters.
As the proud proprietor of Nip it in the Bud Inc., Guggenhime spends his days moving his goats from one weed-infested property to another. When they arrive, his dog, Nap, does the herding, ushering a wall of goats to the task at hand. Then Guggenhime puts up electric fence to keep the explorers from wandering off or getting in trouble.
After that, it's up to the crew.
"Goats are incredible animals," says Guggenhime, as he watches his four-legged employees devour a nasty weed patch on a 200-acre hay farm near Loveland, Colo. He's genuinely impressed.
Never mind the fact that Billy goats have a habit of urinating on their own faces to attract mates — a character trait that has given all goats a bad rap as being smelly, he notes. Or that they have been known to terrorize the chickens and raid the garden at his own home.
"They can eat hemlock, which killed Socrates. They can eat musk thistle, with its huge giant spikes. They can eat from dawn 'til dusk," he says.
They can also eat knapweed and leafy spurge, weeds so noxious they often create a blistering rash for people who try to pull them.
And unlike lawnmowers, which have a tendency to spread seeds and aggravate a weed problem, they eat systematically: first nipping the buds and flowers, then the stalks, and eventually the seeds.
They offer added services: They fertilize the soil with their waste, break up hardened, crusty surfaces with their hooves, and nip away at overgrown vegetation that keeps sun and moisture from reaching soil and native seeds, Guggenhime says.
At $1 per goat per day, plus a set-up fee, they're also comparatively cheap.
And, Guggenhime says, "they're cute and they're great with kids."
He also uses his goats for milk and cheese, and occasionally he'll sell some for the meat. But he and his wife have grown pretty fond of some of them, particularly the "original crew," he says. "They're off limits."
"They all have their own personality," he says. "Just imagine trying to take care of 200 little kids."
Lisa Marshall writes for the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo.