These little beasts are mowing lawns, clearing brush, and doing yoga.
This will get your goat.
Goats are doing the jobs that humans used to. The latest example: Western Michigan University recently employed a team of goats to clear out “undergrowth in a woodlot, much of it poison ivy and other vegetation that is a problem for humans to remove,” according to a WMU representative. The university got the goats from a local couple, who rents them out as “lawn mowers,” but not everyone is seeing them as a money-making opportunity. Indeed, an angry labor union has filed a grievance claiming that WMU’s new furry subcontractors are eating up jobs that would otherwise be left to humans to fill.
Goats mowing your lawn have advantages over humans doing it, says Dr. Joan Burke, a scientist at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. When they repeatedly feed on weeds, they can eliminate their presence in a given area entire entirely — one of those weeds is poison ivy. “The chemicals [in pesticides] are associated with cancer,” Burke said — yet another reason why natural goat-grazing is a promising alternative.
These aren’t the only goats who are taking human jobs. In California, Sacramento County officials have assigned 600 goats and sheep to clear out dry vegetation that could potentially start a brush fire this summer. How are they doing it? By eating their way through it all.
And goats are even getting into yoga. Back in April, one New Hampshire farm introduced “goat yoga” — where baby goats participate in the meditative art — and it’s gone viral. Since then, it’s been out with “downward dog,” and in with “downward goat,” for many devoted yogis.
Experts say goats are hot right now. “There’s a movement to get back to our roots and have more of a down-home lifestyle — shopping at farmers’ markets, making your own laundry detergents … We want to get back to some of the things that we’ve lost over the last fifty years or so, and goats are part of that,” says Shea Rolnick, owner of Maine’s Knotty Goat Soapery, who has observed a definite increase in the popularity of goats recently. She adds that she has seen steady growth in sales of her goat-milk based product line in the last three to four years.
She links this growing interest in goats to the multitude of goat videos that have cropped up online — like “Goats Yelling Like Humans — Super Cut Compilation.”
But, Rolnick warns, the growing business surrounding goats comes with a dark side. “People have tried to hire me to take my goats off of the farm and into the yoga studios — that’s extremely stressful for most goats though,” Rolnick says, citing factors like travel and the presence of incense in yoga studios which goats reach negatively to. “They’re not looking at [their] well-being,” she cautions, and “a lot of goats are at slaughterhouses and auctions that shouldn’t be there.”
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