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Are Goats Coming for Your Landscaping Job?

Saturday morning cartoons told the truth about one thing: goats will eat just about anything they can get their mouths on. That includes poison ivy and hard-to-weed underbrush. This makes them a good choice for landscaping companies looking to clear lots. There’s just one problem, from the perspective of a landscaper: goats are a lot cheaper than human workers.
goats
Patryk Sobczak/Unsplash

Now, a labor union says that one university has been using goats to replace humans on a campus landscaping crew.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

The 400-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has filed a grievance contending that the work the goats are doing in a wooded lot is taking away jobs from laid-off union workers.

“AFSCME takes protecting the jobs of its members very seriously and we have an agreed-upon collective bargaining agreement with Western Michigan [University],” said Union President Dennis Moore. “We expect the contract to be followed, and in circumstances where we feel it’s needed, we file a grievance.”

Will Goats Eat Your Job?

A spokesperson for Western Michigan says that the goats were there to clear poison ivy, not to chomp grass (a union job).

“For the second summer in a row, we’ve brought in a goat crew to clear undergrowth in a woodlot, much of it poison ivy and other vegetation that is a problem for humans to remove,” she said. “Not wanting to use chemicals, either, we chose the goat solution to stay environmentally friendly.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

The 20-goat crew comes from a company called Munchers on Hooves, a Coldwater, Mich.-based company which rents goats to homeowners and organizations for use as living, breathing farm equipment.

A 2016 MiBiz item about the goat landscaping pilot program noted that the method was said to be more environmentally friendly than conventional brush-clearing technology, but also quoted a WMU horticulturist as saying that the goats were less expensive — about $300 cheaper per quarter acre.

However, if you’re a landscaper, you probably don’t need to panic. Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post dug into the numbers, and concluded that — at most — goats might endanger 347 full-time jobs.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s your take on this story? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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