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Hungry Goats: A “Green” Answer to Your Yard Troubles?

Goats eating Christmas trees at City Grazing in San Francisco, California Goats eating Christmas trees at City Grazing in San Francisco, California (Photo: /City Grazing)
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Want to get rid of your Christmas tree? Hire a goat. At least that's what City Grazing, a full-service goat grazing company in San Francisco, recommends. For the second year in a row, City Grazing put out a call on its Facebook page asking local residents to drop off their evergreens for the goats to eat. Once donations come in, the company screens the trees to make sure they are suitable for the goats to eat, skipping any treated trees and checking for any leftover decorations. Gifting your Christmas tree to a hungry goat can be an even greener way to dispose of it than dropping it off at your local recycling center. Cuter too.

Goat rental companies like City Grazing are popping up all over the country, touting themselves as a safe solution to controlling large, overgrown backyards and out of control weeds. It can be risky to tackle these tasks yourself. There are always concerns about what's under the leaf pile, bug bites, dangerous critters and poisonous plants.

Goats can clear from a couple of acres to hundreds of acres in a short amount of time. These insatiable herbivores can clear areas of a backyard that are tough, or even impossible, to reach with a lawn mower. They'll also eat dry brush and branches that can pose fire hazards and provide organic fertilizer for your future garden. So the four-footed lawn mowers stay put, the rental company provides electric fencing to prevent wayward goats from wandering.

Related: Be a Mow It All: 6 Smart Ways to Prevent Lawn Mower Accidents

Goats are better than chemicals at curbing invasive marsh grasses too, including the common reed, according to a study from Duke University. "The goats are likely to provide an effective, sustainable and much more affordable way of mowing down the invasive grass and helping restore lost ocean views,” said Brian R. Silliman, lead author of the study.

Goats will eat harmful plants like hemlock, poison ivy, poison oak, pampas grass, blackberry bushes, mustard species and thistles — all weeds you definitely want out of your yard, says the Brentwood, Tennessee, goat gracing company, The Goat Guys. Another upside: Goats will eat the whole plant, preventing the spread of seeds and slowing down the return of unwanted plants. With enough maintenance and a few visits from a hungry heard of goats, the weeds' roots will eventually die and not return.

So next time you need to clean up your yard, just go(at) for it.

Related: Urban Gardeners: Are You Growing Produce in Contaminated Soil?

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