City Desk

Congressional Cemetery Unleashing Goats on its Weeds

goatsWhat 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

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  • Aldo Kelrast

    What about the goat poop? I would imagine over 6-8 days they will leave quite a bit of it which would seem to sully a cemetery a bit no? I'm also skeptical these animals will be stepping carefully around the cemetery and won't do some damage?

    But someone must be kidding if this seems like a deal - $750 per day for 6-8 days to clear a 1.5 acre lot hardly seems cost effective - I can't believe a landscaping crew could not manually do this in a couple of days.

    Maybe there is something greener about this but it is hard to believe it is saving any green.

  • http://ConsDem ConsDem

    Wondeful. Best idea.

  • Dan Gamber

    But what about all the dogs that exercise there?

  • TomPotomac

    If the goats will eat poison ivy (I was skeptical, but Goggle says it is true), the fee and any goat poop clean up is worth it.

  • Typical DC BS

    Dogs in a cemetery should be banned. But, this being DC, dog owner's sense of entitlement trumps respect for the dead.

    And before the dog lovers whine, try bringing a dog into Arlington Cemetery. Or go jogging or biking through there. The guards there at least understand what respect is all about for the dead.

  • Jack Kaplan

    Att: Sarah Kaplan

    Where were you when we still lived in Connecticut.

  • lisalassie

    This is a wonderful idea and goats should be used much more.

  • Bob

    70 goats enlisted to clean up historic congressional cemetery. Too bad NONE of these jobs were offered to folks out of work, who would jump at the chance to learn professional cemetery maintenance. Not a bad career choice at all, but to lose out on it to goats? Pretty sad.