California School Uses Goats to Clear Away the Weeds

By Ilene Eng

DANVILLE, Calif.⁠—A high school in California used goats to clear away fire hazards in an effort to prevent wildfires for two weeks. Representatives from the school said they are happy with the results.

Every year by the end of May, The Athenian School makes sure that weeds are trimmed away from its buildings using a process called “weed abatement.”

The school performs this process annually before fire season using electric or gas mowers. This year, however. the school decided to take a novel approach.

“This year we decided to use goats for a good chunk of the weed abatement project. And use just the mowers for some of the easier to reach areas,” said Leslie Lucas, Chief Operating Officer at The Athenian School.

The 75-acre school rented 300 goats for two weeks. It is the school’s first time using goats to do the clean-up.

The Athenian School rented 300 goats from Goats R Us for two weeks in May 2019. (The Athenian School)

The full-time herder brought in especially-hungry goats, ranging in size and age.

“Goats are able to get down in crevices and deep into the creek—that’s really difficult with mowers,” said Lucas. “And goats will eat everything organic. And they just cleared the brush so effectively.”

Lucas says the goats also got on their hind legs to eat the leaves at base of the trees.

A grove at The Athenian School in Danville, Calif. show how visiting goats ate everything the could, including the leaves on the trees, May 2019. (The Athenian School)

Fencing was put up around the goats to keep both the billies and humans safe from each other. The herdsman moved the fencing with the goats as they ate their way around the school.

Goats in a pen at The Athenian School, Danville, Calif., May 2019. (The Athenian School)

Lucas says it is slightly more expensive than mowing, but the benefits outweigh the costs. “I think students in between finals would go out and look at the goats. And I think it was rather Zen-like. I think it was very calming to the community. I think everyone liked the environmental-sustainability aspect of it.”

She said she is very happy with the result and would do it again in a heartbeat.