Goats grazing at WMU to clear overgrown lot

A goat from Munchers on Hooves grazing on Western Michigan University's campus.


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Western Michigan University has hired a group of summer employees to clear an overgrown woodlot on campus. But they aren’t getting paid – because they don’t have much use for cash.

The university recently brought in 20 goats as landscape service workers and gave them the responsibility to eat their way through 16 acres of brush, shrubbery, trees and weeds.

Goats are hard workers — or maybe just big eaters. 

“They’re really, really aggressive with their appetite,” said Western Michigan University Horticulturist Nicholas Gooch.

Garrett Fickle, the owner of Munchers on Hooves — which supplied the goats — says the animals can clear the woodlot in a way heavy machinery can’t.

“When you use a Bobcat to try to clear things, it just compacts the ground, tears up your seeds,” Fickle said. “It takes your seeds that are dormant and brings them to the surface, then allows them to grow. Well, when a goat goes to the bathroom, the seed doesn’t grow.”

WMU had a pilot program last summer with the goats and because they did such a good job, the university decided to bring them back again, Gooch said.

As far as overtime as concerned, Fickle said so far, no one has complained about it.

“They’re happy as long as they’ve got plenty of food to eat,” he said.