The goal of Margaret Chamas’ landscaping business is pretty standard: clear out and cut down overgrown properties.
But instead of the usual team of landscapers, her crew is made up of 80 or so goats.
Her herds, contained by a thin and portable electric fence, will eat away at overgrown plants, leaves and underbrush on customers’ properties.
The goats chow down on everything from large, commercial plots of land to suburban backyards. Their favorite: poison ivy, which Chamas says is one of the goats’ most popular jobs.
“They are extremely happy employees,” she said.
Using goats is more sustainable for the earth than other clearing methods, Chamas said. Less gasoline is burned and fewer chemicals are used.
The goats also take most of the human labor out of a project. And they get to eat lush greens.
“They’re getting into places that humans can’t go and they’re making use of all of this stuff that to us is just a nuisance,” she said.
Goats on the Go started in 2012 in central Iowa, according to the company’s main website. As demand grew, the founders started enlisting other goat farmers around the country to join the Goats on the Go franchise. Now there are about 10 states with participating farmers.
Ashlee Valentine used Chamas’ branch of Goats on the Go last fall to clean up four acres on her property in Holden, Mo. She said the goats ate her dense property down to the point where she could easily go in and manage it later.
As someone who has considered owning goats of her own, Valentine said having goats on her property for two and a half weeks was a blast.
“Really the only work I did was give them treats,” she said.
Costs for the service vary based on the type and size of the project, Chamas said. A backyard typically costs $250 while bigger projects, like parks or densely overgrown properties, cost around $500 per acre.
Project costs are always based on land acreage, she said, and never length of time; the goats are free to eat as quickly or as slowly as they want. Projects typically take seven days per acre, she said.
Chamas, who grew up raising goats on a dairy farm, got involved with the franchise in January 2018. Goats on the Go attracted her because it allowed her to make more money while providing her goats a healthy and natural diet.
“I don’t have to be hauling in feed, it’s community involvement and it’s a pretty regular paycheck,” she said.
When she started, she was a little worried. She had increased her goat herd significantly and, with hardly any job sites to take them to, they began overeating her own property.
But slowly, people began to hear of the unwanted-plant-eating goats and business started to take off.
Now, in her second summer of Goats on the Go, Chamas said she has added another herd to her crew so two jobs can be worked at once. She also has a waiting list into next year.
Chamas said she often calls city halls before going to a new place to make sure they are OK with her services. She has found that some towns, such as Independence and Shawnee, have been open and even excited about the idea, while other places, such as Leawood and Weston, have told her she couldn’t bring the goats in for jobs.
Her goats are her way of life, she said, and Goats on the Go gives customers the opportunity to have the goats become a part of their lives for a little while, too.
Some act like dogs and follow her around with their nose in her pocket looking for treats, she said. Others jump the fence to find some better food (though this doesn’t happen on jobsites since the better food is inside the fence, she said).
One of the goats, a black and white girl named Violet, kept jumping the fence at her previous farm, which hosts children’s events and weddings. Chamas is holding onto Violet for that farm during wedding season because she kept photobombing wedding photos and eating centerpieces.
Chamas said it’s common for people set up lawn chairs and watch the goats nibble and fuss with the leaves and plants for hours.
“They’re very personable,” Chamas said. “They’re very fun.”
Tracy Shelby, another customer, used Goats on the Go in May to clean up some acreage at his house in North Kansas City. He said he communicated with Chamas ahead of time to be sure his family could socialize inside the fence with the goats.
“We actually had favorite goats that my wife, kids and guests would seek out,” he said.
The goats are set to return to his house in September, and his family plans to throw a party during their visit.