What has two horns, a beard, and an appetite for weeds? The Historic Congressional Cemetery’s new lawnmowers.
The cemetery has hired a team of more than five dozen goats to graze the plot’s perimeter, clearing it of poison ivy, vines, and other unwanted plant pests.
According program manager Lauren Malloy, invasive species pose a growing concern at the cemetery, where they can potentially kill trees and ruin historic headstones. But administrators didn’t want to use chemicals that would run off into the Anacostia River, and machinery can’t navigate the cemetery’s wooded area. So goats emerged as the solution to the cemetery’s invasive plant species problem.
The handy ruminants will be provided by Eco-Goats, an Annapolis-based company that employs goats as weed-control in areas where lawnmowers and herbicides won’t do the trick.
“It’s old, old, old technology. People have been using goats like this for thousands of years,” says Eco-Goats Supervising Forester Brian Knox, who works as a sustainable resource management consultant when he’s not driving goats up and down the Mid-Atlantic.
Knox and his goats will be rolling into town next Wednesday. (He’s hoping his 16 foot stock trailer doesn’t hit too much Beltway traffic. “Goats can get kind of grumpy if you keep them in the trailer too long,” he says.) After Knox encloses the grazing area with portable electric fence, the goats will be free to roam—and raze—the 1.6 acre property.
At $750 per day, goats might not be the cheapest form of weed control on the market. But they are efficient: Knox expects that it’ll take six to eight days for the goats to thoroughly clear the cemetery’s perimeter of weeds, and he’s looking forward to watching.
“It’s funny, because they come off the truck looking like they’ve never eaten before in their life,” he says. After the goats get over the initial “new food!” euphoria, they start to establish a pecking order and organize into cliques. According to Knox, “It’s like high school.” (Goats at the top of the hierarchy always get the best foliage.)
The whole process will be open to the public, though visitors won’t be able to interact with or get close to the goats.
Photo courtesy of Eco-Goats