GOBBLIN’ GOATS: Herd Fills Two Needs

They were brought in to make the small acreage feel like a real farm.

“The plan was to get rid of them in the fall and we enjoyed them so much that we decided to keep them,” says Aaron Steele of Ames.

The influx of immigrants from Mexico and Africa created a market for goat meat.

“And being that we’re in a university town,” says Steele’s business partner, Chad Steenhoek, “we have a lot of opportunity to sell our goats, locally.”

But those of us who don’t know goats for their meat, know them for something else.

“Well, that’s the stereotype–that they’ll eat everything,” Steele says. “In truth, they’re very selective and they select things that other livestock animals won’t.”

So friends Aaron Steele and Chad Steenhoek put their meat goats to work on a new project: weed and brush control.

“As you can see, they’ve really hit the non-native honeysuckle hard,” Steele says, pointing out the goats’ work, “kind of just leaving these skeletons, here, with a few leaves.”

“Goats on the Go” are for hire.  These are stationed over at nearby McFarland Park in Story County, where they devastate invasive species and tough weeds.

“One of the goats walked right over to thistle and ate it down,” Steenhoek says. “I mean there’s grass shin high, and it walked over to the thistle and ate it first.”

Last week, these areas were choked with garlic mustard and poison ivy.

“We can put goats on a steep slope bank,” says Steele, “or in a place that’s so choked with brush that you couldn’t even get into it.”

Native grasses can return safely.

“Everything with a wider leaf seems to be what they eat first,” Steenhoek points out.

No pesticides, no fuel, no emissions.

“We believe that there is a demand there,” Steele says.

It takes about a month to clear a dense acre, and each goat rents for five to seven dollars a day. One animal, two revenue streams.  Lots of appeal, no kidding.

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