MARION — Who needs a lawn mower when there are goats?
The Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency is siding with the goats. The agency has hired an Ames-based company called Goats on the Go and 240 of its goats to clear 30 acres of grass, weeds and other vegetation at the landfill in Marion, 1954 County Home Road.
“This is their last stop for the season,” said Karmin McShane, executive director of the Solid Waste Agency. “After this, they go home for the winter.”
The goats will be introduced to the land on Wednesday.
The agency turned to goats because it is establishing pollinator habitat for Monarch butterflies on top of a capped old landfill. A controlled burn is the preferred method of clearing land for a prairie of pollinators, but since the landfill emits methane and gasses a fire is not an option.
Goats are a natural substitute.
“They start at the top and eat all the way down, like a burn will do,” McShane said, noting the vegetation is shoulder to head high. “They eat everything.”
She’s hopeful pollinators will come back next year thicker than the weeds.
McShane said this will serve as a pilot project to perhaps expand to Mount Trashmore. The project is part of the agency’s environmental management system program and could serve as a model for other landfills across Iowa, she said.
The project costs about $20,000 with about half the cost for the goats and the rest for seeds for milkweed and other friendly native plantings for Monarchs, McShane said. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is providing $14,000 of the amount through a grant, she said.
The goats will be fenced in clearing an acre at a time and goat herders or shepherds will tend to the goats, ensuring they are healthy and have sufficient water, McShane said.
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Aaron Steele, co-owner of Goats on the Go, said his company travels within a 300-mile radius of Ames for clearings of 10 acres or more. Clearing for a prairie is a typical request and he doesn’t perceive a risk for the goats from the landfill, he said.
“They suppress what’s not native and encourage native plants,” Steele said.
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