Some of these prairie plants are considered weeds in any number of different more urban
But, how do you choose to get rid of them?
Old fashioned hard work?
Well, you might want to try goats.
One Iowa company is using targeted grazing to clean up the landscape and it's a pretty
Many years ago herds of animals freely roamed the prairies of Iowa grazing on a variety
of plants and controlling growth.
Those conditions are different across the Iowa landscape today.
But an Iowa company called Goats on the Go is providing targeted grazing to help manage
unwanted vegetation in a sustainable way.
For some the goal is just to run the goats through, open things up, make it look better
for a little while.
But then we have other customers who have definite conservation goals in mind.
They want to restore natural landscapes, native landscapes and they want to do it without
herbicides, they want to do it without much disturbance and they want to do it on a large
So our services run the gamut from both extremes.
Goats are much better bushwhackers and weed eaters than lawnmowers.
They thrive in dense vegetation, chomping and chewing their way through noxious weeds,
brush and invasive plants.
They'll go up as high as they can reach.
They'll push stuff over.
And so you really get a good defoliation of all the species of the plants from about six
feet down and then when you choose to pull them off down to the ground.
Goats deal with steep slopes and rough terrain with little erosion and much less safety risk
In a happy coincidence, they love to eat honeysuckle, multiflora rose and many other types of invasive
vegetation that we humans want to get rid of.
Sheep will eat grass and some weeds, cows will just eat grass, but goats will eat all
So that's the uniqueness of a goat.
From little trees to thistles, they'll eat it.
If you look at the protein content of those plants, that far exceeds some of the best
hay we could give our goats.
But no other animal can consume and digest and make use of those nutrients other than
That's kind of what makes them amazing.
Goats on the Go brings the animals to the site, sets up a solar powered electric fence
around the area that needs attention, provides water and has a representative check in on
the goats regularly.
A typical job for Goats on the Go involves about 30 to 40 animals, usually taking four
to five days per acre.
The first time I brought up the subject I had a lot of people think we were maybe a
little bit nuts.
But I kept talking it up and finally convinced everybody that's what we needed to do.
The Iowa City School District used Goats on the Go for multiple projects including one
creating a transition from a heavily wooded area to a play area outside an elementary
The district had to get approval from Iowa City and North Liberty officials to have the
goats within city limits.
The main objective with the goats coming in here is actually to get rid of a lot of the
leafy material and the waist high vegetation.
What that does is it makes it a little bit safer for our operators to go in and chainsaw
out any woody vegetation that we don't want in there, smaller trees, the little saplings.
They're just as cost effective as if we hired a crew of four or five men for a week and
paid labor, wages and the equipment itself.
So it's pretty much a wash but in the end it's better because it's friendly to the environment.
I'd say that the thing that's most surprising is how great of a job the goats actually do.
I kind of expected mixed results and kind of thought, well it might be easier just to
do it with a heavy duty brush mower.
But surprisingly they eat the vegetation all the way down within inches of the ground.
It's unquestionable success.
These cute and sometimes goofy grazing goats aren't just all business.
Part of the appeal of Goats on the Go is educational and yes, entertaining.
Goats will be on logs, jumping, head butting, running around making sounds, they're a lot
more fun to watch.
I kind of call them the court jester of the animal kingdom.
They're always goofing off doing something weird.
We're constantly amazed at how much people love goats.
The only thing I think people would like more than goats is if you could train monkeys to
do something because that would be funnier.
Monkeys with a weedwacker might top goats.
Right, might, but people love it.
Here at Dewey's Pasture in far Northwest Iowa about 120 goats spent several weeks munching
on about 22 acres of undesirable trees and brush.
If you do nothing they grow up to trees and some people think that's not a bad thing,
but if grassland, wetland dependent critter, if you will, that's the worst thing in the
So, you have to do that type of management.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources deals with land management on a daily basis in parks
and natural areas throughout the state.
The DNR uses Goats on the Go in some sensitive grassland and wetland areas with remnant vegetation
and native prairie where heavy machinery or chemical applications are not ideal.
And unfortunately one of the reasons why we're doing this, we don't have a whole lot of burr
oak regeneration here because of the tree and shrub encroachment and a few other factors.
These goats will help clean some of that up and hopefully allow some of that oak regeneration
and other savannah type species to blossom and to happen.
But it'll take time, it'll take time.
The cost for this service varies depending on the size of the project and the location.
Bigger projects and those closest to Goats on the Go's home base or one of their representative
goat farmers across the state can be more cost effective per acre.
Some people wonder why the model isn't flipped, why Goats on the Go isn't paying the landowners
for feeding their goats.
This is a horrible way to feed goats.
It's really expensive to do it this way.
We would just be feeding goats right here at home in a convenient pasture if all we
wanted was to feed them.
So we have bigger aspirations than that.
A one-time visit by Goats on the Go won't permanently solve most vegetation problems.
The company works with customers on a comprehensive strategy to achieve land management goals.
Goats are one tool in a toolbox for managing vegetation.
They work great in combination with other things.
If the customer is committed to using goats and only goats we can have a killing effect
on the targeted vegetation over time, but it typically takes two or three repeat grazings
to start to kill the vegetation.
In most cases we are opening things up, clearing it out, setting back the targeted vegetation
a little bit so that other vegetation can compete and we're creating a much more pleasant
environment to do some follow-up hand labor, maybe even some very precise applications
of herbicide rather than a broad application of herbicide.
Goats on the Go isn't just in the vegetation control business, it's in the meat business
Although the company has been so busy with grazing projects that there hasn't been much
opportunity to sell goats for meat, yet.
It's a true definition of a value added product because we're taking something that was of
no value and could not be of any value unless you put a browsing goat on it and turned it
into meat for the community and for Iowans.
Really the only thing that's holding us back is how quickly these guys can reproduce.
So we see a need for more goats, we see a need for more good people to help us out and
we definitely want to spread our brand around.