Men Who Mow With Goats

A herd of goats has recently been tasked with clearing the heavy brush on the Woodfin Resvoir dam. The goats arrived on Monday (July 23) and have begun munching their way though the thick brush overlooking Woodfin’s water treatment plant. 

The goats are being rented by the Woodfin Water District though Wells Farm of Horse Shoe, NC. Wells Farm is tending the goats as well as installing electrified fencing to keep them penned in.

The goat initiative comes as a result of numerous difficulties in previous years with keeping the dam clear of brush. According to Woodfin Water District director Joe Martin, they have performed controlled burns and utilized prison labor in the past. He indicated that controlled burns are both dangerous and dirty, causing pollution. Likewise, previous attempts by prisoners to clear the embankment proved difficult. The prisoners “spent most of their time dodging yellow jackets and hornets,” Martin said.

The goats however are unfazed by the steep terrain or the resident pests. Already in roughly a day, they have begun to clear some of the brush at the top of the dam. Martin stated that according to the Wells Farm employee who delivered the animals, the herd would clear the embankment in an estimated three weeks. According to Wells Farm’s website,

the goats are fond of rose bushes and kudzu, however Martin was also informed that smaller saplings are a favorite meal. “They’ll knock down the smaller trees and peel the bark off like a banana,” he said.

Martin went on to explain that utilizing the goats, was not only safer, with no risk of bee stings or falls due to the steep terrain, but also more cost effective and cleaner. When the Water department utilized the prison labor, seven to nine men would be working the embankment for eight hours. “We don’t have the manpower to put a crew up here,” Martin added. By his estimation, the goats are operating at $3 a day per goat. Pollution is minimal, the truck used to haul the animals to the site being the only fossil fuels utilized. Even the fence is electrified using solar power.

This is not the first time that Wells Farm has had a public contract. In 2011, they were utilized by Virginia Power, Davidson College and Western Carolina University among others to clear overgrown areas.

Future plans, according to Martin, are to leave the fencing up, so that the goats will have a pen to come back to the next time the Water District needs them.