This is a crunching, munching cleanup crew!
Cape Cod Home / Spring 2016 / Home, Garden & Design, Nature, People & Businesses
Writer: Haley Cote / Photographer: Heidi McKenna, Matt Gill, and Stacey Greaves
Centerville’s “GOat Green Cape Cod” offers a one-of-a-kind landscape service
There is no shortage of animal life at the Centerville home of Stacey Greaves. With 26 chickens, four ducks, three dogs, three cats and two rabbits, Greaves has her hands full. But she says it’s her eight goats that keep her busiest.
The goats—Gus, Bambi, Leland, Pepper, Peanut, Frito, Kyle and Brad—all males who range in age from 1 to 2 years, thereabout, are the most valuable employees of “GOat Green Cape Cod,” the vegetation management company Greaves started last May. “I love to work with the animals,” says Greaves. “I’m passionate about it. I feel like I’m contributing something to the environment.”
Dubbed ‘goatscapers,’ this hungry herd serves as a natural alternative to herbicides and machinery as the goats eat their way through invasive and hard-to-reach plants, such as poison ivy and thorny brush, controlling overgrowth while helping to restore a healthy ecosystem. Starting at $100 a day, Greaves rents out her herd in groups of three, four, or eight bucks depending on the size of the area to be cleaned up. “The goats are very bonded together, so I can’t send just two,” she explains. “I won’t separate them. Believe it or not goats are emotional; they are more like dogs as opposed to a cow or a sheep. They are very needy. They are pets, so when they’re not with one another you know it.”
Greaves explains that some projects can chew up three whole days, while others take a week, so the goats remain on the clients’ property for the project’s duration. In addition to the herd, Greaves provides clients with necessary supplies for their care, including buckets for water and a tin can of peanuts to shake in the event the goats get loose. She also provides a temporary shelter for the goats, and is on call around the clock.
During jobs, the bulk of which take place from spring through fall, the goats are secured within an electrified fence, which Greaves installs herself. She sets up a perimeter of up to 750 feet around the area to be ‘goatscaped,’ often working through thick brush by hand. “You have to have a thick skin, literally!,” she says. The fence can stand up to four feet tall to keep the goats in—and any predators out.
When working together, Greaves says her eight goats can clear approximately one quarter of an acre—that includes brush, weeds, briars, the list goes on—in five to seven days. “They continuously want to eat,” she says. “From the time the sun comes up until the time the sun goes down, they will continue to eat.” Goats, like other ruminating herbivorous mammals including cows, sheep and deer, consume so much because they need to eat a lot of plants in order to get enough nutrients. And their stomachs—consisting of four compartments—make such mass consumption possible, constantly moving food through the digestive tract. It seems the only time the goats do not want to eat is when they’re sleeping—or in the event of stormy weather.
Greaves says she originally wanted to have goats as pets, but in order to keep them she knew they would have to be “self-sustainable,” so to speak. In the spring of 2014 she took her first step into the vegetation management business, buying her first four goats. “They’re like kids,” she says. “It’s constant care.” Each of the animals has its own personality, its own voice. “I can tell which one’s calling,” she says. Bambi is the wooly mammoth-like “alpha goat” of the herd, Greaves says, while Gus is curious and friendly. “I call him my sunshine. He’s always the first one to come see me.”
In the summer and fall of 2014, Greaves set about raising her four goats—and doing her research. “It took me a year to really figure things out and decide, ‘Is this something I really want to do’,” she recalls, “and the more I looked into it, the more I was like, ‘of course it is’. At this point in my life, I’ve raised my children, I can do what I want, and this is what I want to do.”
When it came to starting her goatscaping business, Greaves says she felt it important to learn the ins and outs of the industry the right way—and from the best. This led her to The Goat Girls, an Amherst-based brush clearing company that offered Greaves two, 14-hour days of hands-on training. Greaves learned how to work with electric fencing, care for her herd, and run the business. During these sessions she also learned a lot about local poisonous plants. “Everybody thinks goats can eat everything, and I was the same way,” she says. Not so. Some plants that are green year-round, like rhododendrons and azaleas, can be toxic to goats.
Pocasset resident Heidi McKenna was one of GOat Green’s first customers in 2015. Her need: clearing poison ivy that was infiltrating her backyard. McKenna and her husband, Kevin, rented four of the goats for six days, and she says the animals were so efficient she would love to have them return again next season. “It was the safest, quickest way to take care of it without using any toxins,” McKenna says. “I highly recommend it. They serve a purpose, it works well, and Stacey was great to work with.” She adds that the GOat Green owner called her daily to check on the goats and see if she needed any assistance. “She’s a super nice person,” McKenna says, “I think she’s got a great thing going.” Note: To eradicate poison ivy entirely, Greaves says it does take repeat visits over a few years.
McKenna also praised the goats themselves. “They’re entertaining and super friendly,” she says. “After the third day, when I pulled into the driveway they all came over to greet me. They were almost like a family member greeting me at the door.”
Marilyn Marcelli hired the goatscaping company last fall and is another happy customer. “The goats did such a nice job,” she says. “They were fun to have here. It was a joy, it really was.” A Mashpee resident, Marcelli lives in a densely wooded area, and brush annually encroaches on her driveway. She rented the goats’ services for two weeks, and they cleared out lots of poison ivy, bull briar leaves, and, Marcelli adds, “everything else.”
Adding to their unending appetite for yardwork, Marcelli says it was just nice having the goats around. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it,” she says. “They were very, very sweet.” She adds that the goats provided hours of entertainment for the children of her neighbors, who enjoyed watching them and feeding them peanuts.
While it takes a good deal of work to run a goatscaping business, Greaves says she finds her job very rewarding. “You just have to stick with it 24/7,” she says. “You really have to be committed and dedicated. And you have to be in it for the animals. They’re not just lawn mowers.”
For more information on GOat Green Cape Cod, contact Stacey Greaves at 508-737-7895, or via email at email@example.com.
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