Parents of fussy eaters might want to wander over to the Brazos River this weekend to find inspiration for their finicky children. There will be some kids there who will eat anything.
The Waco Parks and Recreation Department has hired Rent-A-Ruminant to provide a test run for a goat landscaping program starting Saturday afternoon to clear vegetation from a sloped area deemed too treacherous for city workers to access.
The 3-year-old company, which has franchises in Texas, Louisiana, Washington and Tennessee, will bring about 120 goats to Waco from its Texas operation in Rising Star to chow down along a three-quarter-acre strip on University Parks Drive between Waco Drive and Bosque Boulevard.
Terry Carr, of Rent-A-Ruminant Texas, said it could take his goats five or six days to clear the unwanted vegetation from the area behind the Parks and Recreation office building at 201 W. Waco Drive.
“The goats have a strong union,” Carr joked. “So union rules say they get to take breaks at 10 and 2 and that they don’t have to work from Thanksgiving to April.”
The area the goats will graze has a variety of vegetation, including reeds and sugar cane, poison ivy and poison oak, interim Parks Director Jonathan Cook said.
“It’s an area that traditionally we have not been able to get to because of the sloped area behind the Municipal Court building,” Cook said. “It’s an area that we thought was easily accessible to give us a trial run on this program and to see how it works. Up and down the river, the slope of the river bank puts our guys in unsafe positions with their mowers.
“But one of the biggest things, we have used water-safe chemical applications there, which we don’t want to do anymore. So it’s sort of a green alternative, it’s cost effective and there is the safety factor. We are interested in exploring it to see how they do this weekend. We may want to expand it into other areas”
City spokesman Larry Holze said the city is paying $1,725 for the goats to spend Memorial Day weekend in Waco.
In 2017, the city bought a $30,000 remote-controlled mower for steep slopes. The purchase came about a year after a worker and his mower fell 15 feet down a creek embankment in Cameron Park and had to be pulled from the water.
Carr, who has been ranching and around animals since he was a kid, said workers will start putting up electric fencing around the grazing area Saturday morning, and the goats should arrive Saturday afternoon. He said the low-voltage fencing is not so much to keep the goats in, but to keep predators, such as wild dogs and coyotes, out.
“We have done this in a lot of cities and we have never had a goat get out,” Carr said. “They never get out. They are only interested in eating.”
Rent-A-Ruminant has four kinds of goats, including boer, Alpine, Nubian and Spanish goats, Carr said. They are not troubled by slopes or poison ivy or poison oak and can clear out a parcel to the ground if allowed to graze that long, he said.
Another advantage is that the goats clear out snakes that like to hide in the thick vegetation, Carr said.
“The goats are very protective of their kids,” he said. “They stomp around and startle them, and eventually, the snakes move on. The goats run them out of the pasture or the area we are in.”
Carr said he has brought his hungry goats to jobs in Fort Worth, White Settlement, a Paluxy River park near Glen Rose, a creek bottom in Brownwood and wetlands near Whitney. The goats, which have a 10- to 15-year life span, will work about 20 jobs in Texas this year, he said.
Cook said if families want to come see the brush-munching goats, there is a green space with a picnic table behind the Municipal Courts building.