Goat Grazing Grows Up

In the battle against invasive plants, Goats On The Go® lifts the “goat rental” service out of the realm of goofy gimmick, putting a professional face on a flaky industry.

Five percent of the global economy. That’s the annual value of attempts to control, and absorb the damages of, the spread of invasive species worldwide. Chew on that for awhile.

Across North America, increasing numbers of goat grazing services (also known as “goat rental” or “targeted grazing” or “prescribed grazing” services) are doing just that - literally chewing on the problem of invasive plant expansion.

Google and Yahoo famously hired goats to manage vegetation on their corporate campuses, and the idea seems to be taking hold across the U.S. as the multiple environmental benefits of using goats combine with the entertainment value for customers. Recently a herd of about 100 goats escaped from a vegetation management project near Boise, Idaho and invaded a residential neighborhood, feasting on landscaping. The response was mostly wide-eyed bemusement, rather than angry outcry. One can imagine a decidedly different reaction had chemical pesticide accidentally been unleashed on the neighborhood.

Still, goat grazing for vegetation control is a new concept to consumers, and the burgeoning industry is in need of an upgrade in the professionalism department - and a recognized national brand - if it is to go mainstream. Enter Goats On The Go®, a targeted grazing company launched in Iowa in 2012 (making it a relative veteran in the goat grazing world). “It’s the wild west out there,” says founder Aaron Steele. “There are lots of different business models and pricing structures, and companies leave the market as quickly as they join it.” According to Steele, this unpredictability keeps would-be customers from trying goat grazing. “People don’t know what to expect when they contact a service provider,” said Steele. “Will the person on the other end of the line have any expertise or experience? How about insurance? Will there even be anyone on the other end of the line? We’re trying to build a brand that tells people they’ll be working with a professional, not just ‘some guy with goats.’”

To that end, Goats On The Go® has built a network of affiliated goat grazing businesses serving local territories under the Goats On The Go® brand. In less than two years since first offering the program, 16 new grazing businesses in six states have been launched with training, branding, and support from Goats On The Go®. Co-owner Chad Steenhoek says it just makes sense that the company would grow this way. “It was time for us to expand, and we just couldn’t see ourselves hiring employees all over the country. What we really wanted to do was help other hometown goat grazing businesses like ours get started.” Distributing goat grazing availability throughout the country with local affiliates makes sense from a sustainability standpoint too, as using goats for weed and brush control loses some of its environmental punch if herds have to be trucked long distances to do their work.

As the Goats On The Go® brand grows, Steele and Steenhoek find themselves circling back to their original goals for their herd of meat-breed goats. “We wanted to be farmers - that was the original point,” said Steele. “We were looking for a way to feed people with meat that is sustainable both for the environment and for our families economically. Goats On The Go® gives us that.” Most Americans are surprised to learn that goat meat is the most-consumed red meat worldwide, and that there is strong demand for it in the U.S. “Our goats eat vegetation that no other livestock animals eat and that our customers want to get rid of, and they replace chemicals and fight invasive species in the process. That has to make our meat some of the most sustainable meat on Earth,” said Steenhoek.

Steele and Steenhoek have long sold goats for meat on commodity markets, but the growth of the Goats On The Go® brand has provided new marketing opportunities. In September, Goats On The Go® will launch a Kickstarter campaign to ship “butcher boxes” of goat meat cuts directly to the doors of consumers. So what do Steele and Steenhoek call their invasive-plant-fed, chemical-replacing, environment-sustaining product? Meat Made Good.

For more information contact:

Aaron Steele
aaron@GoatsOnTheGo.com
515-257-6846

Goats Gobble Christmas Trees for Good Cause

While most folks are winding down their holiday celebrations at December’s end, the goats of Ames company Goats On The Go eagerly await their own seasonal feast - discarded Christmas trees. Better yet, your discarded Christmas trees.

If the thought of eating prickly, piney Christmas trees doesn’t exactly whet your appetite, consider that these are brush goats, used throughout the growing season as a sustainable means of controlling weeds and brush on customers’ properties. And, they haven’t had their favorite foods since the grazing season ended in mid-October.

So willing are the goats to eat the trees’ needles and bark, in fact, that Goats On The Go is hosting an event to help you dispose of your Christmas tree. Dubbed “Goats On The Snow,” this free event on Saturday, January 2 promises to brighten even the joyless final act of the Christmas season. Event-goers can leave their Christmas trees to be fed to the goats throughout the winter, watch the herd in action, and donate to a good cause. All proceeds from the event will go to the “Kid for a Kid” program of His Hands for Haiti, an organization that donates goats to needy children there. Goat ownership teaches children about responsibility and provides much needed income for their families.

“Goats On The Snow” is a cooperative effort between Goats On The Go, LC and Steenhoek Environmental, an Ames-based company that handles landscape waste and produces high-quality compost. Chad Steenhoek, co-owner of both companies, says the enterprises complement each other perfectly, even though the connection might not be obvious. “It’s the perfect match,” says Steenheok. “The goats eat weeds and brush in the summer, reducing the need for chemicals and machinery. The woody branches and trunks they don’t eat can be disposed of here at Steenhoek Environmental, made into wood chips, and combined with the goats’ manure to produce the best compost in Iowa.”

So why Christmas trees? According to Steenhoek, they serve as a readily available dietary supplement when the goats most need it. “Goats do best with variety in their diets, but during the winter all they usually get is hay. The trees are also a natural dewormer, so we don’t have to use much medicine to fight internal parasites. “And,” quips Steenhoek, “what’s cuter than a goat eating a Christmas tree?”

“Goats On The Snow” will take place on January 2 only, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Steenhoek Environmental, 3892 N 50th. Ave., Ames. No trees will be accepted once the event ends. More information can be found at GoatsOnTheGo.com.

 

For more information, contact:

Aaron Steele, Co-Owner

 Goats On The Go, LC

515-257-6846

info@GoatsOnTheGo.com


 

Goat groundskeepers get golf course tidy in Central Iowa

Of all the challenges that golf presents, avoiding a herd of goats with your tee shot is typically not one. But golfers who played The Harvester Golf Club northeast of the Des Moines metro this summer have experienced that unique hazard.

With the assistance of Goats On The Go, a targeted grazing company based in Ames, The Harvester applied 75 goats to the rough areas of the course, targeting invasive brush and grasses like reed canary grass. The plants were choking areas of the course that were intended to be playable.

“The course was designed to have fine fescue roughs that players could hit their balls out of,” said course superintendent, Joel Randall, “but those areas have started to fill in with other vegetation.” The goats munch away at the roughs, thinning the vegetation to keep it neither too rough nor closely-cropped, all without chemical sprays and mowing. They’ve also been employed to attack brush thickets at the edges of the course.

“Goats are amazing creatures,” says Aaron Steele, co-owner of Goats On The Go.  “They like to eat weeds and brush more than turf grasses, which make them ideal for a golf course, and they can save the course a lot of money by cutting the use of chemicals.”

The goats are concentrated in areas with the biggest vegetation problems through the use of portable electric fencing and a solar power source. They are rotated around the course in a couple of different groups, staying in any one location only a few days at a time. “We weren’t sure how many goats it would take, but after our success with them this summer we’d like to have even more,” says Randall.

Goats On The Go, which launched in 2012, sourced the goats for The Harvester, which owns them. It also trained the golf course staff to manage the herd and provided insight on vegetation control and goat care throughout the first season of the grazing experiment. “This was a new role for us,” said Steele. “We typically rent our own goats to customers and manage the grazing project for them. But this made perfect sense for The Harvester, since it is such a big property which will need goats year after year. We see so much value in using goats for vegetation control that we’ll help a customer in any way we can.”

So what do golfers think of the new groundskeepers? “They really seem to like them. They’ll hit their shots and then stand around and watch the goats,” Randall said. “It’s really peaceful.”

That’s great for the ambiance, but not great for the pace of play. Golfers are reminded that etiquette demands goat gawkers let others play through.

 

Contact:

Aaron Steele, Co-owner

515-257-6846

info@goatsonthego.com

GoatsOnTheGo.com