WATCH: Hired weed-eating goats ‘gnaw-t’ bothered by Leesburg heat

July 17, 2019

WTOP/Neal Augenstein

More than four dozen goats hired by Leesburg, Virginia, to clear weeds from a rocky waterway without the use of dangerous herbicides are making quick work of the project — and enjoying afternoon naps.

“We have 53 goats here,” said Mary Bowen, owner of Browsing Green Goats, based in Sunderland, Maryland. “We’re going to clear this entire creek bed.”

In April, the Leesburg Town Council voted to employ goats, rather than use herbicides in three stream bank floodway channels, which must be clear of weeds to prevent flooding. Bowen’s company won the contract.

By Wednesday morning, 48 hours after beginning the project, the goats had devoured the weeds in approximately 100 feet of the stream bed, near the corner of Dry Mill Road Southwest and Town Branch Terrace, and had been moved to the next portion.

“We keep them here round the clock; it’s not efficient to move them at night. We have surveillance on the goats,” not to mention an electrified fence, hooked up to a car battery.

Bowen said the town is so pleased with the goats’ presence, “they’re keeping an eye on them.”

With temperatures near 100 and high humidity, Bowen said the goats naturally know how to keep cool, while dining on mare’s tail and wild grapevine.

“They’ll follow the shade, and won’t work too much in the sunny part,” Bowen said.

Instead, during the heat of the day, Bowen said the goats — with names such as Igor and Gem — will lie in the shade and chew their cud. “And then, tonight, they’ll get really busy,” she added.

Her goats don’t mind working what people call the third shift: “They are busy at night, and you can tell by the next morning how much they’ve done.”

Bowen estimates the project will take approximately two weeks to complete.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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