An alternative to herbicides

by Rebecca on January 24, 2012

in Animals in the News

Voracious goats provide a natural alternative to herbicides in the Bayview-Hunters Point area of San Francisco.

City Grazing

By LOUISE RAFKIN NY Times

The 60 goats living in the rail yard near Pier 96 at the Port of San Francisco contribute to the city of San Francisco in their own way, clearing brush as fire prevention and offering a green alternative to toxic herbicides. Perched on the edge of Bayview-Hunters Point, an industrial area, these hard workers avoid the busy roads and — incredibly — return home when called.

CLOVEN ADVANTAGES

The goats have voracious appetites, and graze on most vegetation including poison oak, thistle and blackberry. It’s false lore that they will eat boots and tin cans, but a sneaky goat named Oreo did ingest a reporter’s notes.

PEDIGREED

Five years ago, David Gavrich began City Grazing with a group of 10 goats that had been headed for the gallows. Mr. Gavrich, who has a master’s degree from Harvard in environmental management, worked in the Environmental Protection Agency during the Carter administration and was an environmental manager under Mayor Dianne Feinstein.

MOVERS AND MOWERS

When the gates to the pens open each day, the goats run free in search of tasty greenery. For $200 to $400 weekly, including pickup and delivery, people who need some extra cleanup can rent small groups from the herd.

GET YOUR GOAT

Trevor Rose, who grew up on a family farm in Jamaica, beat out 200 applicants responding to a Craigslist ad for the job of herder. An attractive Alpine goat, Belle, leads the herd. “She marches to her own drummer,” Mr. Rose said, explaining why Belle was at large well after the others were returned to their pen.

BENEFITS AND PERSONALITIES

Veterinary students who take care of the herd’s medical needs administer what Mr. Gavrich calls “family planning.” Oreo, said to be the most intelligent of the lot, was raised in Mr. Gavrich’s Bernal Heights home, and she often breaks her brethren out of enclosures. A head butt from Belle signifies affection; she clearly felt a fondness for our photographer.

(DIRTY) WORK

Mr. Gavrich, the chief executive of San Francisco Bay Railroad, oversees rail operations at the port. Additionally, he heads the Waste Solutions Group, a company that removes contaminated soil from sites including the Hunters Point shipyard. Of retirement, Mr. Gavrich said, “this is it, for the goats and for me.”


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