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Cities around the world do indeed hire goats for brush clearance from private contractors with witty names like “Rent a Ruminant” and “Dial-A-Goat.” In addition to providing goats to cities, many contractors also provide small herds to private individuals and government agencies like the highway department. There are a number of reasons why cities and individuals choose to hire goats for brush clearance, starting with cost: goats are usually much cheaper than mechanical means.
When goats are hired to clear brush and other flammable materials, the contractor usually establishes a boundary with electric fencing. Sometimes, fencing surrounds the whole area to be cleared, and sometimes a series of rotating pens are set up to ensure that the goats nibble everything all the way down to the ground. The contractor may simply leave the goats on-site, or someone may stay with the goats to ensure that they stay out of trouble. After all the brush has been cleared, the goats are loaded up and taken to a new location.
Goats have a number of advantages over human labor. The first is that goats can hit hard-to-reach areas, thoroughly clearing a region that humans might gloss over. They also clear everything indiscriminately, including tough brush and thorny invasive plants. Hiring goats for brush clearance also tends to be less expensive than hiring people who must be paid an hourly wage on top of being insured in case of injuries. They are also more environmentally friendly; while goats do leave deposits on site, they are biodegradable, and goats do not emit combustion-related pollutants like those generated by tractors and weed whackers.
Many cities turn to goats for brush clearance because they are viewed as environmentally friendly, and the city wants to set a good example for citizens. Private institutions like museums and colleges may also use goats for much the same reason, and as part of a larger goal to go “green” by using environmentally friendly methods to maintain their facilities. Typically the choice to use goats for brush clearance also attracts attention from the local media, making it instant free press.
Contractors are typically willing to bring goats almost anywhere, although they will visit the site first to ensure that it is safe and to estimate the number of goats needed. When goats are used for brush clearance along roadways, additional fencing or privacy screening may be used to protect the goats from traffic, and so that drivers do not gawk at the goats or grow concerned about their safety.