If you’ve seen goats grazing at the Cohasset Golf Club or at the Planet Suburu car dealership in Hanover, you were not imagining things.
A local “goatscaping” company offers goats and sheep for rent — to help with brush control by eating all of the unwanted weeds and plants that plague landscapes.
Goats are known for their industrial-strength stomachs, and can devour bothersome plants like poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak — no problem.
“They metabolize it quickly; they have the largest livers of any herbivores,” said Elaine Philbrick, co-owner of The Goatscaping Company.
It all started for the love of goats; Philbrick said that’s why she and partner Jim Cormier launched their South Shore-based company, the only one of its kind in the area.
“I really love goats,” she said.
The duo started off as volunteers at the Colchester Neighborhood Farm in Plympton, where they keep their herd of 30 goats in the winter.
Philbrick, who grew up in Cohasset, got the idea to offer a “rent-a-goat” service when she read an article in the Patriot Ledger about goats clearing a Braintree golf course.
“I picked up the phone and called three golf courses,” said Philbrick. “Cohasset Golf Club called me back and hired me.”
The partnership started around a year ago. Now, the golf course has a herd of four goats that live and graze on the property. The goatscaping service will be offered as long as the golf course is open.
At the golf course, the goats have a real field day.
“They move around the different holes trimming the rough, especially the briars and poison ivy, in often rocky ledge areas that are difficult to mow,” Philbrick explained.
The 30 goats are divided into six working crews and rented out to various locations. Customers so far include the Black Rock Country Club in Hingham, the town of Duxbury (to clear the Blairhaven park), Planet Subaru in Hanover, and residents from Bedford to Bridgewater, Hanover to Kingston and Duxbury, and, of course, Cohasset.
The state government has also rented the goats to clear out an abandoned property where “the fire department deems the brush a fire hazard, but the area is too dangerous for people due to crumbling buildings,” said Philbrick. “GreenCAPE is proposing our goats as the solution with NStar for the 100-mile Cape corridor to avoid the controversial herbicide treatment. If we are hired and the Cape is spared 100 miles of herbicide and potential groundwater problems, it is all thanks to our first customer [Golf Club superintendent Glen Misiazek] in Cohasset.”
With such in-demand goats, one would think the Goatscaping Company is a large-scale operation, but so far there are only three employees. Besides Cormier and Philbrick, there’s Henry Dormitzer, a 15-year-old Cohasset High freshman who has become a professional goat herder, working for the Goatscaping Company after school four days a week. Dormitzer feeds and waters the goat and often leads them back to their pen at night.