Kimberly Jones and one of her workers.

It was about four years ago that Kimberly Jones began thinking about what to do with her livestock. Her desire to start a business was twofold: She wanted to find a way to utilize her animals — she was considering horse therapy for those suffering from PTSD — but also wanted to do her part to keep tradition alive at a time when she says America’s farming industry is on the decline. And interestingly, she added, what remains of it is increasingly female-led. She hadn’t put much thought into her herd of several dozen goats, a holdover from her kids’ 4-H days, when someone suggested she utilize them as a fire mitigation service.  Four years later she’s doubled the size of her herd and runs Colorado-based Goat Mowers, which offers fire mitigation services, invasive species eradication and traditional landscaping.

“It’s truly incredible what goats can do and how much they eat,” Jones says. “I had one man tell me that he had spent seven years trying to clean the fields that the goats were able to do in two days.” 

We caught up with Jones to find out why everyone is turning to goat mowing.

The following has been slightly edited for clarity. 

On the job. Photo by Goat Mowers

TEH: Let’s start with fire mitigation, since that was the impetus for your business. How does that work?

Jones: With the goats we work on creating fire breaks by having them bring the canopy up from the ground by eating the brush. The fields carry the fire to the branches, and if they’re really low they will catch on fire and the tree will go up. But if you’ve got that brush cleared, it gives the firefighters a fighting chance. We have a lot of gambel oak trees here, and the goats can eat about 10 pounds of those leaves per day. So if I bring 45 Goats, that’s 450 pounds of leaf that they’re bringing up off the ground. The fire department and forest service here in Colorado say that we’re basically in fire season all year round now, so it’s good to be prepared to the best of your ability. 

TEH: And invasive species? I heard goats love poison ivy.

Jones: Oh yeah, they’ll eat poison ivy, Canada thistle, and knapweed; the only thing they can’t eat is hemlock, which is poisonous to them. So with people having a problem with invasive weeds, I like to use the example of, if you go to the doctor and you take the same antibiotic over and over again, your body builds a resistance to it. The same thing is happening with the weeds that we have on this planet. We’ve sprayed so many chemicals that they build resistance to them. With all the chemicals we’ve sprayed on this earth there shouldn’t be one weed left. Also, if you’re using something like a weed whacker, that throws the seed back and forth from the weeds and drops the grasses on the ground — and there isn’t a landscaping company around that rakes it up unless you asked them to. And then it’s really pricey. 

One cool thing about goats is that they’re the only ruminant [herbivorous grazing] animal that doesn’t recede in their manure. Meaning when they eat the seed pods, they literally grind them into a powder in their mouths. And then when it comes out the other end, there’s nothing in there. A cow, for example, would eat some Canadian thistle and those seeds would come out in their manure and be transplanted all over your property. 

TEH: And you also offer more traditional landscaping services? 

Jones: Yeah, the new thing now is that people aren’t even having lawn mowers coming in, they’re having goats come in and they’re calling it goat scaping. It’s a good option if you’re trying to heal your soil. 

TEH: What do you mean by “heal your soil?”

Jones: Their hooves help them massage the soil, so that the sunlight and moisture can get down in there. Goats also have four stomachs so they’re constantly emptying, and when what they eat passes through them, it picks up all of this flora and enzymes that are so good for the soil. There’s actually been studies on goats where they over the course of several years have added something like an inch to the soil. 

Employee of the month. Photo by Goat Mowers

TEH: Who is a good candidate for your business?

Jones: About 95% of my business is residential and I often work in the suburbs. There’s no yard that’s really too small, but I will say that with my goats, you’re probably looking at at least a quarter to a half an acre or bigger.

TEH: And how long does it take 40-odd goats to clear an acre?

Jones: That’s the magic question that nobody really can answer, it really depends on the vegetation. I’d rather under promise and over deliver, so I always say it’s about a half an acre to three quarters of an acre per day.  

TEH: What are your rates like?

Jones: Different areas have different rates, but residentially I charge between $1,400 and $1,600 per day. Some states also offer tax credits for fire mitigation services. 

TEH: I hadn’t heard of “goat mowing” until a few years ago. What do you attribute its rising popularity to? 

Jones: I think our whole world is changing. People are becoming more aware of what they put into their bodies and what they put into the soil, especially if you have kids or pets. We have a lot of cancers. And then we have these city departments spraying with what they call safe chemicals. And then 10 years down the road somebody sues because they got cancer from these “safe” chemicals. I would much rather deal with goats’ tiny pebble manure any day over chemicals. 

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