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Goat grazing benefits goats, homeowners and refugees

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Located just west of the Salt Lake City International Airport, the East African Refugee Goat Project (Goat Project), a program of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City in partnership with East African refugee communities in Salt Lake County, tends a goat ranch with a herd of over 350 Boer goats. The Goat Project started as a way to engage the Somali Bantu, Burundi and Somali Bajuni communities in Salt Lake City. Youth from these communities participate in a 4-H program at the goat ranch: selecting, training and showing a goat each year at the Salt Lake County Fair. Additionally, the goat ranch provides the East African refugee communities with a culturally appropriate source of meat that is difficult to access in Salt Lake City, as well as additional revenue from the sale of goat meat. There is another, lesser-known, use of these goats as well: invasive weed management.  

Goats from the East African Refugee Goat Project, a program of the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City, graze on an overgrown backyard.

After 3 days of grazing, the overgrown backyard was cleared and the family was able to enjoy their yard again.

Photo: Kate Wright/IRC

Recently, a group of goats cleared a refugee family’s back yard right here in Salt Lake City. The family’s yard had become overgrown with weeds and low-hanging tree branches. The family’s caseworker noticed the overgrowth and went to Kate Wright, Goat Project coordinator, to see if goats could help.

“Goats are a great way to control weeds and unruly yards without using environmentally harmful practices like spraying pesticides or using gas-powered machines like lawnmowers or weed trimmers,” Kate explained. After assessing the site and finding it suitable for the goats, 12 from the herd spent three days grazing on the property. The family, who worked with goats in their home country, “were really happy to have goats in their yard here in the U.S. The two young boys seemed very excited to herd the goats through their backyard.” Within a few short days, the goats had cleared the unwanted weeds and the family could enjoy their backyard again.

"Besides their weed-eating capabilities, goats are just fun animals to have around. Homeowners who rent goats for backyard grazing get the added perk of a little extra entertainment," Kate Wright, Goat Project coordinator says. Photo: Kate Wright/IRC

Could you benefit from goats clearing the weeds in your yard? Goat rentals for weed control are available to community members in Salt Lake City!

There are many benefits to using goats as a means to clear overgrown vegetation, Kate explains. “Goats are browsers that enjoy a varied diet. They love to eat bushy and woody biomass that can be difficult to clear manually. They’ll also eat many species of noxious weeds found in Utah, including knapweed, phragmites, thistles and tamarisk, though it’s best to hit them while the plants are young.” Not only are goats good at clearing vegetation, but renting goats through the East African Refugee Goat Project directly supports refugees in the community.

“This is a very special program created and run by refugees in the Salt Lake valley. Paid off-site grazing is an excellent small business opportunity. The Goat Project hopes to use our experience with paid off-site grazing to engage interested refugees in the East African communities in developing their own goat grazing enterprises.”

If those reasons don’t convince you, just think about how fun it would be to have goats in your yard!

“Besides their weed-eating capabilities, goats are just fun animals to have around. Homeowners who rent goats for backyard grazing get the added perk of a little extra entertainment. Goats have unique personalities, they’re curious, they get excited about new things, they play and fight with each other, they make crazy noises, and most of them really appreciate human attention – especially treats and back scratches.”

Interested in renting a goat to graze in your yard? Contact Kate Wright, Goat Project coordinator, at GoatProject [at] rescue.org to schedule a site visit!