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.
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