Restoration Idea: Goats in the graveyard

Before goats

Photo courtesy of Goat Browsers

A couple of weeks ago, BTG showcased a fun article about a community that decided to use goats for clearing a vegetation-submerged cemetery.

Well, it appears that others are getting keen on these 4-footed weed whackers as the go-to solution that’s both environmentally friendly and economically practical. This week, the Gloucester Historical Commission of Gloucester, Massachusetts, announced that they’re also hiring some goats. The job duties are simple. Eat through the vegetation clogging the edges of the First Parish Burial Ground, one of the oldest Puritan cemeteries in the country.

Considering the costs involved with hiring a landscaping team to bring in the specialized equipment, goats are becoming a terrific clearing option for cash-strapped preservation societies. So I decided to catch up with Al Dilley, the owner of Goat Browsers, in Glasgow, Kentucky, for a little Q&A.

After goats

Photo courtesy of Goat Browsers

Q: Why goats?

A: There are seven good reasons why.

  1. They eat 8-12 hours a day.
  2. They like steep slopes and uneven terrain, areas that are difficult for regular machinery to reach.
  3. They’re browsers and enjoy snacking on such things as poison ivy, honeysuckle, wild rose, blackberry brambles, kudzu, privet, or Chinese wisteria, for starters.
  4. They’re quiet and won’t disturb the neighbors.
  5. They don’t burn fossil fuels, and their only emissions are natural fertilizer.
  6. They’re non-toxic and pose no threat to the local water supply.
  7. They’re fun to watch.

Q: On average, how long it would take goats to clear an overgrown cemetery?

A: Timing mostly depends on the type of vegetation. Let’s say a 1-acre, overgrown cemetery could be cleared out within 12 days with 16 goats. If you put 30 goats on the job, it could be as little as a week. Take that same 1-acre lot, if it’s heavily vegetated (not just merely overgrown), it could take 15 goats approximately 2 weeks.

Q: How many do you use on a project?

A: It varies. I’ve used up to 50 goats on a project.

Q: Describe the typical goat personality.

A: Goats are very social animals. They can be lovable, flighty, and very curious. If they’re not eating, they’re looking for something to be involved in.

Q: What should cemetery preservation societies be aware of when they consider hiring goats?

A: People need to be aware of several things:

  1. Expect a mulched look when the goats are done, not a manicured, lawn mower look.
  2. Goats are the first line of weed battle. Once they’re done, regular maintenance must continue in order to keep the overgrowth at bay.
  3. Goats don’t eat everything. Depending on the time of year, they will not eat certain vegetation so in order to avoid this from happening, I walk through the property as a check before the goats arrive.

Bottom line? While goats won’t eat everything (so much for that myth), they’ll still do a thorough clean up job on your cemetery for a fraction of the price it would cost to have a professional landscaper clear it out.

Food for thought. No pun intended.

Photo: courtesy Goat Browsers

Photo: courtesy Goat Browsers



1 Comment

Filed under Restoration, Spotlight On

One response to “Restoration Idea: Goats in the graveyard

  1. Pingback: Even small projects can reap a windfall | Beyond The Ghosts...

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