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Local farm has goats to cure ‘baaaad’ poison ivy

“Hey-Oh!” Alan Aulson yelled into the air at Great Rock Farm. And then “Hey-Oh!” again. A second later, about a dozen eager goats bleated their replies back to him as they appeared from downhill and rushed up a path to start work.http://georgetown.wickedlocal.com/article/20150707/news/150707836

If you’re looking to clear your property of poison ivy and invasive plants, you can spend locally and get it done green – with help from a herd of goats.

Aulson and his wife Maureen, who have owned Great Rock Farm since 1979, launched Goats to Go a couple years ago, providing an eco-friendly alternative to harsh chemicals and big machinery when it comes to clearing yards of nature’s unwanted greenery.

The farm was already full of goats and sheep, since the Aulsons’ grandkids love them so much and wanted them. So Aulson found a way to make the goats useful.

“We had the goats, and we had to do something with them,” Aulson said. “People are terrified of poison ivy, and they’re always trying to figure out ways to get rid of it.”

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The staff at Great Rock brings about 10 goats to a property, puts up an electrified fence and lets the goats loose to do what they do best: eat. It could take a few hours or a week for them to clear a whole property, depending on the size of the land and the density of the brush.

Unlike sheep, which eat grass, goats love poison ivy because it’s leafy and thick. Each goat can eat several pounds of brush a day, and they eat all kinds of invasive plants in addition to poison ivy.

“They grab the leaves is what they do,” Aulson said. “They strip all the leaves off the plant. Goats like woody things.”

They don’t eat the roots, but as they feed over and over, the branches and roots will die.

Many of the goats are myotonic goats, also called fainting goats. They earn that name because when they become excited, their muscles freeze and they appear to faint for a second. The farm also has Nigerian dwarf goats, smaller in size but also with big appetites.

If you enlist the services of Goats to Go, one thing to remember is to look, not touch. While petting the goats may seem appealing, they are eating poison ivy and will likely be covered in poison ivy oil. So petting them could cause you to break out with it.

The Aulsons manage their many goats and sheep with their trusty sheepdog, Banjo. The goats tend to be afraid of dogs, so Banjo is able to round them up and assert order when needed.

There’s also a llama. Llamas are very aggressive against canine predators, so the llama stands and keeps watch for any coyotes in the area, working in an unwitting cooperation with Banjo to keep the herd safe.

For Goats to Go, business has been building to a steady stampede.

“We never even really advertised or anything,” Aulson said. “I just had that yellow truck made up. I put the trailer out there and people just started calling.”

The goats will clear yards, farms, horse paths, really any area that needs it. Families seem to love the goats, too. Goats provide cuteness for the kids to look at and a chemical-free means of removing poison ivy. A couple weeks ago, a customer hired the goats to clear his yard for his children’s pool party.

Costs range according to size of property and length of time. After a basic $200 set-up fee to deliver the goats and set up the fence, the goats – typically 10 per job – are available for a combined $150 a day. The average rental time is a couple days.

To learn more about Goats to Go and see what services they offer, visit goatstogo.farm.

Source: Wicked Local Georgetown News