Stern: University can benefit from goats on campus
- Mar. 10, 2013
- 1 Comment
We’ve all seen it. The video begins with Taylor Swift singing “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and next thing you know, a goat is screaming along with the music. Goats have received attention recently for their featured vocals in some of today’s popular hits; however, few realize the potential of goats to be revolutionary.
I began thinking about goats as more than just adorable creatures after seeing Rich Addicks’s short film, “Weed War.” This film is seriously incredible. It shows Mark Harbaugh, Patagonia fly-fishing representative and goat rancher, making a sustainable effect in the Rocky Mountains.
Mark Harbaugh is passionate about goats and the benefits of using them as weed control over toxic chemicals. He makes the point that goats cost a third of the price of chemical spray, create no environmental damage, and improve the habitat. Specifically, Harbaugh combats Leafy Spurge, a weed with a 20-foot taproot that produces a milky lactate, which deters most animals from eating it. He has designed a system that takes the same amount of time as chemical management by combining goats to break down the weeds and then releasing certain types of beetles to finish decomposing the remainder of the plant.
Rich Addick supports the documentary with some jaw-dropping facts. In 2001, nearly 5 billion pounds of chemicals were used in the United States to kill weeds and insects. Only 5 percent of these chemicals reached their intended destination. Invasive plants cause more than $20 billion in economic damage due to the fact that they affect millions of acres of private and public lands. A goat eats 16 hours a day, and noxious weeds are a favorite meal choice. A herd of 3,000 goats can eat their way through 50 acres of weed in one day.
Goats prove themselves as more than sustainable. Cheryl K. Smith includes self sufficiency as a benefit of having goats in the book “Rasing Goats for Dummies.” Goats produce milk, fiber, and meat. According to Smith, goats can be milked for three years without rebreeding. Fibers produced by goats include mohair, cashmere, and a fiber called cashgora.
So now that we know goats are an awesome sustainable and self-sufficient resource, where do we go from here? I truly believe that the University should invest in a herd of goats.
The addition of goats to our campus would promote the University as an environmentally responsible school, even more so than its current impressive reputation. Goats would further the Campus Sustainability Plan by creating a more efficient and eco-friendly alternative to chemicals. In the plan’s vision, it states, “By utilizing the campus as a living laboratory and engaging students and faculty in campus projects, KU can find ways to complete tasks more efficiently.” Beyond this, goats could easily be used for recruitment.
The campus would save money on weed killing chemicals, and have a new unique defining factor. The KU bookstore could sell a line of clothing made from authentic KU goat yarn. The Underground could have food made with local goat products. The goats could be incorporated into classes, and jobs would be created in order for care and management of the goats. I can’t think of a better on-campus job than a goat herder.
I understand the limitations of this idea, but as Harbaugh said, “Doing the right thing can be profitable and it is very heartwarming and gratifying at the end of the day.”
Jenny Stern is a sophomore majoring in biology from Lawrence. Read more from Jenny Stern.