Chowin’ down around town is the latest in eco-friendly “landscaping,” and one local business has recently been getting much attention. Portland is well known for being progressive and environmentally friendly, as well as being home to small businesses that make big impressions. Goat Power is doing just that, after stepping into the spotlight in April when it started “mowing” the huge field adjacent to Portland International Airport.
Contracted by the Port of Portland for the 25-day job they just wrapped at PDX, this crew loves to work. They chow down everywhere from vineyards to construction sites, on both private and public land. An upcoming gig will have them working the riverbanks in Albany this summer.
Briana Murphy, also known as the “Goat Shepherdess,” is happy spending her days and sometimes nights with her animals, helping people and businesses reclaim and clear their properties. Based on a 10-acre farm in Sherwood, Murphy and 40 goats and one llama recently welcomed 20 new Spanish goats, including 10 does.
“I started the business about four years ago and love what I do,” says Murphy. “The thing no one ever talks about is that it really is a job I run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — feeding, watering and caring for the animals, plus transporting them to job sites. I miss many birthday parties and events due to the demands of my business — it calls for a lot of dedication.”
“Another thing,” she adds: “you really can’t just leave goats in a barn and wait for the next job. They require care and attention, and the ability to wander. You can’t just tie up a goat.”
Murphy says she gets many calls from people who want just one goat. “It really doesn’t work like that,” she says. “People need to do their homework to learn what caring and providing for a goat — or any livestock animal — is really all about before they decide to add an animal to their home or business.” Reaching out and educating the community is an important part of Murphy’s mission.
The growing popularity of using goats to maintain weeds and clear and fertilize vegetation, as well as sensitive and hard-to-manage areas of land, is understandable. These friendly chompers alleviate the need for pesticides or chemicals, they feed while they work in a way that does not cause erosion, provide natural fertilizer, and can handle steep invasive terrain. Murphy’s current crew can consume about 150 pounds of foliage in a day. They also eat seeds, which slows new growth of vegetation in the areas they’ve tended.
While some call what the goats do “mowing,” that is misleading: they love munching on blackberries and poison ivy, but grass? Not so much.
An electric multi-strand fence and a solar-powered fence energizer keep the goats safely contained on the job site. They are accompanied by “Monty,” their fearless llama protector. Monty’s job is to keep watch for coyotes and alert the herd to danger, or if need be, to neutralize a predator with a swift kick. For these and other reasons, it is important for people to steer clear — this is after all, a working crew.
Murphy’s efforts to educate the public include signage telling neighbors and visitors what is going on — that the goats are working, and that they are not to touch the fence or the goats.
When meeting with potential clients for the first time, Murphy conducts a site visit to evaluate the clients’ needs, project boundaries, possible hazards, and the terrain and vegetation mix. The site must be prepped, removing any hazards, including poisonous plants. Once a contract is set, the idea is to move the project along as quickly as possible. The whole herd works the job and then moves on to the next one.
Happy clients of Goat Power say the option is good for business. By maintaining the land in an eco-friendly way, everyone wins: the goats, the environment, and the business. An added plus is that passersby love seeing the goats out in the field, peacefully munching away.
The goats are good for Murphy too, she says. “I am very fortunate to have found a fulfilling passion. Every day I am grateful for what these goats have done for me. I thank the process of working closely with nature and my livestock for making me into the kind of person I had hoped to be.”
“Goats are a good tool,” Murphy continues.” They do an excellent job and have a real impact on the environment. There is just a natural order of things. I really hope that as they become more popular and people get used to seeing them working around town that it will take the mystery out of it. They are livestock, and the key is to not stress them. They are very sensitive, low-key animals who just want to do their job. Once you build trust with a goat, they are your friend for life.”
Here’s hoping the addition of goats to Portland’s business scene is just as lasting.
Goat Power - “The Power of Goats to maintain your land”
MowingWithGoats.com * 360-690-6940
Melinda Thompson is a freelance writer with a degree in Speech Communications and a coveted "Ducktorate" from the Walt Disney World Company. She has been featured in many local magazines and newspapers. She lives in Vancouver USA with her husband, son and daughter.