When the General Services Administration needed workers to clear brush from an overgrown hillside behind a federal courthouse in Pasadena, it decided to think outside the box.
Or, more accurately, think outside the species.
Rather than hire expensive humans with power equipment to clear the hill, as it had in the past, GSA brought in a herd of goats to eat their way through the offending vegetation.
Now, GSA didn’t enter into this decision blindly — it produced a 10-page report on the great goat vs. human debate. The report was mostly just pictures of goats, but it stated that goats would cost about $2,000, while humans would cost $5,300. The goats also were deemed able to do the work faster and with a lower carbon footprint. The report also said that tenant satisfaction would be “high” if goats were used, but “low” with human manual laborers. No explanation there as to why. Quality of work was judged to be “good” by both species, so … score one for the humans? I guess?
In a release on GSA’s website, a GSA official said “the clerk of the court watched the goats depart and said she’d be happy to see them back again — the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Jo Ann Soriano Says:
August 2nd, 2010 at 8:38 am
“The report also said that tenant satisfaction would be ‘high’ if goats were used, but ‘low’ with human manual laborers. No explanation there as to why.”
Here’s an unscientific why: In general, people like to look at lively goats. In general, people don’t like to listen to ear numbing power equipment.
AJ Minor Says:
August 2nd, 2010 at 10:42 am
Tom – I think this was a very clever idea and I strongly agree with GSA’s decision to use the goats.
…a good idea. Our government could use more thinking like this.
Tom Spoth Says:
August 2nd, 2010 at 11:14 am
Jo Ann: Yes, that was my assumption as well, but the lack of any sort of basis for that statement in the report does cause the mind to wander a bit.
AJ: Agreed, this seems like a good idea, and other federal agencies have done it too; still funny, though.
Mary Hayes Says:
August 3rd, 2010 at 9:33 am
People like watching goats, but no one likes the smell of goats. Tom did the report mention anything about the amount of manure the goats left behind. I’m sure manure wasn’t a factor when calculating tenant satifaction.
Using goats to clear the land seems like a great idea, but what goes in must come out.
Bobbi Scoville Says:
August 3rd, 2010 at 9:47 am
Goats and sheep have been used for “weed/brush abatement” for years in rural areas. It feed the livestock and clears the land. Kudos to GSA.
August 3rd, 2010 at 10:25 pm
Goats are used in many parts of Southern California to clear brush to reduce wildfire hazard. It is natural, requires no dependence on foreign oil to run machinery and provides employment for those who trend to traditional lifestyles of animal herding. It is a win-win. So, if it is economically, ecologically and socially positive, why is it weird to you?
Tom Spoth Says:
August 4th, 2010 at 3:07 pm
John: I never said it was weird (although it is). I also said I think it seems like a good idea.
August 4th, 2010 at 10:01 pm
Tom, you’re right. It wasn’t your words, it was the subtext.
1. “I’ve heard of outsourcing, but this is ridiculous’ ”
2. “Next on the agenda, talking lizards and ducks will be deployed to convince federal agencies to buy from the GSA schedules.”
Tom Spoth Says:
August 5th, 2010 at 1:17 pm
Yeah, I mean, I totally understand the rationale, other federal agencies have done this too, etc., etc., but still, you have to admit the idea of the federal government hiring goats to eat brush on a hillside is inherently funny.