Nigerian Dwarf goats make great lawnmowers.

Yard work can seem an unpleasant task on those long, hot summer evenings when the porch or pool beckons. Unless you’re a goat. In which case, that quarter acre of overgrown lawn looks pretty enticing. Carrie Pavlik’s new goat grazing business, Steel City Grazers, will clear vegetation when you don’t want to.

Goats are like four-legged teenagers: they eat all the time. Their ravenous appetites run the gamut from weeds and thorns to such human-despised plants as poison ivy. Their nimble footing also allows them to clear places where humans can’t go, such as steep hillsides. This past summer Tree Pittsburgh used a herd of goats to prepare West Penn Park in Polish Hill. Though goat grazing remains novel in the United States, there is growing interest in the practice, said Pavlik.

“Having goats graze is a greener alternative to using noisy equipment or herbicides. And they’re very entertaining creatures, very personable and funny. I hope this will become a part of Pittsburgh.”

Pavlik runs Arlington Acres, an urban hobby farm located on the Hilltop. She decided to start SCG because of continued requests to employ her two Nigerian Dwarf goats for grazing. However, those two ladies are dairy goats and couldn’t be spared. Beyond providing an alternative to traditional vegetation control, Pavlik hopes her grazing business, the first of its kind in Pittsburgh, will inform the conversation about urban agriculture.

“Agriculture doesn’t have to be rural. It’s only in relatively recent history that agriculture in the city disappeared. You can find old pictures of goats and chickens and cows in the early 1900s. I think it’s time for it to come back.”

SCG is currently running an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for fencing, equipment and a guard llama. If the campaign is successful, operations will begin in May 2015. Pavlik has lined up jobs ranging in scope from backyards to several-acre plots; pricing depends on the size of the job. Pavlik will erect fencing to keep goats out of plants that clients want to remain un-nibbled. She plans to begin with 10 goats, a herd size capable of clearing an acre of land in three weeks. The goats will be dehorned and accompanied by a guard llama.

“Llamas are social creatures, just like goats. The guardian llama will bond with the herd and want to protect it.”

The grazing season runs roughly May through October. Since current zoning ordinances require at least three acres for livestock, Pavlik will board the goats through the winter.

Margaret J Krauss

Margaret J. Krauss is a writer, radio producer, and researcher. If not biking Pittsburgh's streets or swimming its rivers, she is likely geeking out about a really good story.