Goat vs. mower: UW-Bothell tries experiment

BOTHELL – The brown, black and white goats didn’t notice their audience Thursday as they munched the thorny blackberry bushes on the hill behind the library at the University of Washington’s Bothell campus.

Human visitors wandered up to the orange electric fence for a closer look at the unusual gardeners, brought in by the university and Cascadia Community College to control the pesky bushes.

The headstrong herd was up to the challenge.

“They’re tough little guys,” said Joe Marchand, a gardener at the campus. “We’re getting a lot of attention. A lot of people are coming up to check them out.”

The university and the community college teamed up to bring in the goats to control the blackberry bushes growing mainly behind the library.

If it works, they hope to use the goats for other lawn care projects.

“We’re experimenting to see how well they perform,” Marchand said. “It seems like they’re really knocking it back quickly.”

The 60 goats are from a Vashon-based business called Rent-a-Ruminant. They arrived in Bothell on Wednesday evening and are scheduled to keep munching until Tuesday or Wednesday.

Rent-A-Ruminant charges $750 a day plus a $200 fee for traveling and setting up the goats.

While munching, the goats are corralled in a portable fence, which has a low-voltage charge.

If the experiment is successful, the university and community college will consider using the goats for controlling weeds and lawn maintenance, Marchand said.

The idea of using the goats was to reduce the amount of fuel-burning equipment used on the campus and fits in with the university’s efforts to be easier on the environment.

The campus has been herbicide-free since July 2006 and practices organic methods of weed removal. The campus also creates and uses its own compost.

Before the goats, workers with weed trimmers hacked away at the blackberry bushes, Marchand said. The work was intense and very time consuming.

Working on an uneven slope with the trimmers also was a safety issue. And the stinging nettles and prickly blackberry bushes weren’t a treat for workers either, he added. Many were thankful the goats took over the job.

“We were like ‘Yippee, we don’t have to do it!’” Marchand said. “They’re just continuous eating machines.”

The herd’s owner, Tammy Dunakin, started with 10 goats 21/2 years ago. Today, she has 100. Each goat has a name and a distinct personality, she said.

Dunakin is even trying her hand at breeding goats specifically for vegetation management. Goats are well suited for the work because they can continuously eat a variety of weeds.

“I like to say they’re just eatin’, poopin’ machines,” she said.

The invasive Himalayan blackberry growing on campus is a favorite among Dunakin’s herd.

“How they eat thorny stuff like blackberry is a mystery to me,” Dunakin said. “Their mouths never get hurt. They literally suck down the blackberry cane like it’s spaghetti.”

Reporter Jasa Santos: 425-339-3465 or jsantos@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Everett man dies after being hit by car in Island County

Jacob Weigert was running across State Route 20 toward a bus stop when he was hit Wednesday morning.

Lynnwood
Lynnwood police shoot at man during pursuit

The man is wanted on multiple warrants, including one for attempted murder, according to police. No one was hurt.

The “Village of Hope,” a tiny home community including 17 shelters, is set to open on Mission Hill Road in Tulalip in September. (Tulalip Tribes)
Tulalip Tribes to open tiny home village with 17 shelters

It’s called the Village of Hope. Monthly culture nights will feature classes in Lushootseed and “Tulalip cooking.”

Everett
Man shot at Everett apartment

The man in his 30s was shot Sunday night. No arrests had been made.

Arlington Public Works employees use The Big Sidewalk Sucker to lift a concrete panel from the sidewalk. The device saves the city some money and time to level ground below the concrete. (Arlington Public Works)
This thing sucks and helps repair sidewalks in Arlington

Public works crews can remove heavy concrete panels from sidewalks, so the ground underneath can be restored.

United Way of Snohomish County CEO Craig Chambers at their headquarters on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New CEO expected to reinvigorate United Way of Snohomish County

The nonprofit lost staff and funding during the pandemic. Craig Chambers wants to turn things around.

New LGI Homes on Thursday, May 12, 2022 in Sultan, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Red-hot housing market cools, a bit, in Snohomish County

The amount of housing inventory is rising. Demand is slowing. Higher mortgage rates are a cause.

John McKeon stands in front of a mobile headquarters vehicle while discussing the funding needs of Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, at the search and rescue headquarters in Snohomish, Washington. McKeon said a priority for the group is to find money for new covered parking for a number of vehicles that do not have a garage to be parked in. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue wants rescuing

They’re asking for nearly $1 million in federal recovery dollars, but funding has been hard to come by.

Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
How to answer Snohomish County’s basic crime questions? ‘Transparent data’

An initiative funded in part by Microsoft could reveal racial disparities, while creating an “apples to apples” database.

Most Read