Goats munching on Norwin hillside brush
Seven goats are munching on the hillside above the Norwin Knights Stadium, chewing away at the overgrown weeds and brush on a steep slope above the bleachers.
”This is a great way of getting rid of invasive (plant) species. They can go where the (mowing) equipment and people can’t go,” Patrick J. Petrarco, Norwin’s director of facilities and property services, said as he watched the goats.
The goat brigade started consuming the smorgasbord of greens July 31 and likely will be making Norwin their home for the remainder of this month, said Nathan Polinsky of Nuisance Wildlife Solutions of North Huntingdon. The school district has asked stadium visitors not to approach the fenced-in area.
Norwin paid Nuisance Wildlife Solutions $3,000 for the goats to be there for 30 days, for set up and removal of fencing, and for the daily monitoring of the animals. There is no expense for room and board.
“It is a cost-effective practice that doesn’t jeopardize employee safety and, because herbicides are not used, it is environmentally friendly,” Norwin Superintendent Jeff Taylor said in a statement.
The goats — Nubians and Boers — range in age from 1 to 3 years and can eat 5% to 10% of their weight in vegetation each day, said Dustin Heater, livestock educator for Penn State Extension Service in Westmoreland County. The goats are better than other animals for the task because they will eat leaves and shrubs, as well as wood plants, Heater said.
The goats would rather eat brush and weeds than grass because they are browsers, whereas cattle are grazers. Browse plants make up approximately 60% of a goat’s diet, according to the American Institute for Goat Research.
“They are doing what they are supposed to be doing,” said Mike Sweeney, owner of Nuisance Wildlife Solutions. The goats are getting fresh water and have shelter.
Sweeney has been hiring out the animals for a year.
Using the goats to clear the brush above Knights Stadium also will reduce the cover for groundhogs. The rodents have been a persistent problem on campus in recent years, Petrarco said. The district also may consider cutting back trees to allow a view of the Norwin Middle School from the stadium. Before cutting the trees, however, the district will have to determine the potential impact of stormwater runoff to the stadium.
Petrarco has been contacted by other school districts about the use of the goats.
Goats have been used to help eliminate vegetation on Pittsburgh’s North Side and Highland Park, in Cranberry Township, and at Carnegie Mellon University. Penn State University-Greater Allegheny in McKeesport and the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve at Saint Vincent College also have used the goat-scapers.
“It’s been a growing business,” Sweeney said.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .