These days the word “green” spreads faster than crab grass across pop cultural and political lines. Judging from small-scale movements like organic living and recycling, the population’s green concerns have gained more and more momentum over the years, and larger topics like global warming and cleaner energy have achieved world-wide awareness. So how are goats helping such environmental causes? The make-up of the goat itself allows for more efficient uses of water, and space. Further, the animal’s universality sees the goat strive in even the most unlivable environments, providing natural resources to the worlds’ most marginal populations. And though the goat contributes its share of greenhouse gases, these loveable animals still remain the most efficient of the ruminants. Perhaps the most impressive, environmentally beneficial goat-trait of all rests within this short video:
And we’ll get into that later.
From a basic standpoint of the animal itself, goats require much less water than other ruminants like cattle. According to the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington (and please bear with me for a scientific moment), “Approximately 0.118 kilograms of goat meat can be produced per 1000 liters of water, as compared to .082 kilograms of beef per 1000 liters of water.” Further : “Lactating goats, weighing an average of 27kg and producing 0.2 liters of milk per day, required 7.6 liter of water per animal per day.” Not only do goats need less water to survive, they also have amazing digestive capabilities and can stomach coarse and often hazardous roughages.
In an article written by Canagasaby Devendra for the International Livestock Research Institute, he muses that “Increased digestive efficiency of coarse roughages, as well as tolerance for deleterious substances in feeds…are higher in goats than in sheep.” Devendra also makes the case that goats function remarkably, even in the worlds’ harshest environments. In such “arid argro-ecological zones (AEZs),” the value of the goat only heightens, especially where other species might fall short, thus “provid[ing] for food security and survival.” So on a global, environmental level, goats bridge national gaps and instill a sense of security, sustenance, and environmental sensibility.
As much as this post aims to promote the goat, ruminants do fall short in the environmental debate when it comes to methane gas emission. In revisiting the aforementioned Evan’s School article, one finds that “Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potency of more than 20 times that of a similar amount of carbon dioxide.” While this may be a concerning fact, it should also be noted that goats, among ruminants, still remain the most eco-friendly option, producing only “5 kilograms of methane annually per animal, as compared to 46-58 kilograms of methane per Indian or African dairy cow.” And for what goats might get faulted for as far as methane goes, they make up for in their miraculous grazing capabilities.
Did you know that the Mountain View, CA headquarters of Google employs a herd of goats to maintain their grounds instead of utilizing lawnmowers? According to EcoLocalizer.com “About 200 goats are used for a week at a time to trim weeds, eat grass, and clean up brush.” California Grazing (www.californiagrazing.com) supplies such services and promises that “our goats restore plant species that better clean the air, reduce water pollution, prevent the spread of fires, eliminate mower emissions, and fertilize while they graze!” One of the more important benefits of goat grazing, as California Grazing’s site mentions, is that of fire prevention, especially in light of the recent Colorado wildfires. California Grazing’s website elaborates that “Goats eat ‘hot fuel,’ the spindly plants that grow under trees and allow fire to spread quickly. Unlike other animals, goats are naturally adapted to eating weeds, brush, thistles and invasive plants.” In a packet released by the Texas Sheep & Goat Raisers’ Association (TSGRA), it’s noted that “By using goats to eat these invasive plants, landowners are helping the environment by removing the plants that are crowding out beneficial species. In addition, they do not have to use herbicides to kill the plants. Herbicides are very expensive, so ranchers are also saving money while helping the environment when they don’t have to use them to control noxious brush.” Therefore, through one basic, second-nature skill, goats help stop the spread of fires, clear weeds and parasitic plant species, eliminate the use for poisonous pesticides and polluting lawnmowers, and naturally fertilize the landscape.
In May of 2009, Dan Hoffiman, the director of Real Estate and Workplace Services at Google posted:
“At our Mountain View headquarters, we have some fields that we need to mow occasionally to clear weeds and brush to reduce fire hazard. This spring we decided to take a low-carbon approach: Instead of using noisy mowers that run on gasoline and pollute the air, we’ve rented some goats from California Grazing to do the job for us (we’re not “kidding”). A herder brings about 200 goats and they spend roughly a week with us at Google, eating the grass and fertilizing at the same time. The goats are herded with the help of Jen, a border collie. It costs us about the same as mowing, and goats are a lot cuter to watch than lawn mowers.”
If anything, he’s definitely right about that last part!
Just by being themselves, goats do a great deal of green work for the world. And through Google’s use of goats as landscaping tools it’s even clear that these versatile animals also beat technology to the eco-friendly punch! Ultimately, what’s more beautifully authentic than seeing a herd of goats grazing their way across a pasture? They can’t be but natural and we love them for it.