The grazing goats first arrived on July 5 and were expected to be on site for two weeks but the excessive heat and density of the vegetation have substantially slowed down their eating habits.
“We have been dealing with a mix of challenges on this job,” said Eco-Goats Forester Brian Knox. “The heat definitely slows down the grazing rate as does the density of the vegetation on the middle of the tract. About half of the site is 12′ Autumn Olive with 800-900 stems/ac. I had only looked at the perimeter when we walked the site last February and just plain missed the time estimate (my bad).”
He said the monoculture of the Autumn Olive also impacts the goats grazing ability.
“Although it is a very protein rich and nutritious food source for them, they prefer a diversity of vegetation and just slow down,” Knox said.The goats are expected to be in town for at least another week.
“We have two more paddocks to go,” Knox said on Aug. 4. “I am hoping to have one of the herds out by the 11th and the other close behind.”
The city of Gaithersburg is a funding partner with the IWLA on the Eco-Goats pilot project.
Knox said his company charges a daily grazing rate and travel allowance. On average, he said the goats cost about $2,000 per acre. He provides the shelter, food, water and security for the animals.
“Cost wise, the extra time certainly drives up our costs, but it does not change the price for the job,” Knox said. “Even when we are working on a daily rate I try to give a realistic maximum cost so clients aren’t worried that the goats are lying down and not eating.”
Before the goats arrived at the IWLA, Assistant City Manager Greg Ossont estimated the city would spend fewer than $20,000 from its Forest Conservation Fund on the project.
“The costs of the clearing of invasives is about $14,000 and we will spend another few thousand on the plantings in the fall,” he said. “All seven acres cleared and plants for less than $20,000, I suspect.”Once their work is complete in Gaithersburg, Knox said the eco-goats are headed to the Villages of Urbana. He expects to arrive in Urbana with the grazing goats the week of the 12th.
Gaithersburg officials said if they have success with the goats at the IWLA site they may bring them back to mow down other overgrown areas of the city, including a pocket park in Kentlands.