bring in the goats


The goats are here.

On Saturday, Steel City Grazers brought nine goats and a donkey named Hobo (a guard donkey, don’tchaknow) to help eat invasive plants in Bird Park.

Watch the goats at work:

Original story


In the coming weeks, Bird Park will be the temporary home for a herd of goats and one donkey named Hobo.

Steel City Grazers, a company that uses a herd of nine to 10 goats to clear properties of brush and weeds on a contract basis will rid two areas in Bird Park of invasive plants. Hobo will guard the goats against potential predators such as coyotes or loose dogs.

The Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy proposed the project to the parks advisory board and then the municipality earlier this summer. “Rather than have fossil fuel spent with loud machinery, I just think it’s a much nicer, environmentally friendly way to do the job,” says Mickey Stobbe, Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy board member. “And it’s fun. Kids and adults alike can appreciate the goats.”

Mt. Lebanon budgeted $2,000 for the project, and the conservancy will reimburse the municipality for the final cost. According to Municipal Manager Steve Feller, the invasives the goats will eat  include vinca, ivy and garlic mustard. 

The first area the goats will clear covers about 1.4 acres between the culvert crossing at the end of Youngwood Road and the wooden bridge on the Mayfair Drive side of the creek. The second area of a little more than a half acre is located off the Beadling Road parking lot.

Steel City Grazers will contain the goats in the two areas with electric fences that shocks but do not harm animals.  People are welcome to watch the goats graze; however, Mt. Lebanon’s public works department will surround the area with bright orange storm fencing to discourage people from getting too close to the electric fence or the goats. All dogs must be on leashes in Bird Park.

Set to begin in mid-September, the project should take between 10 and 15 days to complete, but the schedule is tentative and depends on how quickly the goats can eat the overgrowth. Fortunately, goats will eat just about anything, but there’s no guarantee they’ll eat everything. “We want to give people a schedule of when the job will start, but it’s hard to know for sure with the goats… much like traditional landscaping,” Carrie Pavlik, co-founder of Steel City Grazers, says.

If you visit and are tempted to feed the goats treats, keep in mind that those extra snacks may slow down the clearing process, as the goats will want less brush if they fill up on other food.

Steel City Grazers have set up a temporary shelter for the goats at Bird Park and will visit the site daily to check up on, water and feed the goats. They will leave any goat droppings in the area after the period is up to fertilize the park.

Pavlik, a Meadville native, and her husband and business partner Doug Placais, from Charlottesville, Virginia, started  Steel City Gazers in July. She was first introduced to goats when she was stationed in Gambia in 2008 with the Peace Corps. When she returned home two years later, she started a herd of her own.

Pavlik and Placais own and operate Arlington Acres Farm. They’re currently the only two employees at Steel City Grazers, but Pavlik expects to hire more help next spring. Stobbe is also looking to next spring and says she would like to see the goats back in Mt. Lebanon then, while the invasive plants are still sprouting.

“This is a little test to see how the goats do,” Stobbe says. “But I think they’ll do great.”