Union files complaint over WMU goat project

goats, Western Michigan University
Goats clear out an overgrown lot at Western Michigan University.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — There’s a new controversy at Western Michigan University after some four-legged employees were hired to clear an overgrown lot on campus. Now some of the school’s human employees say it’s really getting their goat.

WMU brought in 20 goats to eat their way through 16 acres of brush, shrubbery, trees and weeds this summer.

Not everyone is happy with how the goats were hired. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees filed a grievance, claiming the university did not notify the union it was going to hire goats to work on campus.

Union President Dennis Moore did not return 24 Hour News 8’s Wednesday phone calls or emails asking him to comment about the grievance. WMU Horticulturist Nicholas Gooch said Moore talked with him Tuesday about how the union wasn’t notified about the goats.

The university is using the goats, rather than humans, to clear the woodlots. 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 bring a bulldozer in or a bobcat to try to clear things, it just compacts the ground, tears up your seeds, it takes your seeds that are dormant and brings them to the surface, then allows them to grow,” Fickle said. “Well, when a goat goes to the bathroom and they’ve ate that seed, it doesn’t regrow.”

University spokeswoman Cheryl Roland said no WMU workers were displaced by the goat project.