Governments' Lighter Side


Who would have thought goats would be a bad municipal investment?

Portsmouth, Va., didn’t think they would be, and last year purchased 10 of the animals to do a little “goatscaping” at the local landfill.

Dennis Bagley, director of general services for the city, told local ABC affiliate WVEC the idea was to have a few goats keep the vegetation on the landfill under control – and by doing so, save the city a sizable chunk of change.

“We contracted out the cutting of the landfill and it was $12,000 for one cutting and we were looking at having to do that six different times,” Bagely told the TV station.

Conversely, he said the goats each cost around $70. Add in about $5,000 worth of fencing, and you’re ready to go. He said if the idea had worked, it would have saved tens of thousands of dollars, but unfortunately, the goats aren’t cutting it.

The Virginian-Pilot reports four goats died due to parasites. So then the city bought some sheep. But the long grasses remained. Then, after some number crunching, the city realized it would take a flock well over 1,000 animals to keep the 120-some-odd acre landfill trimmed and maintained.

“We just have too much land mass,” Bagley told the paper. What’s more, goat husbandry turned out to be harder work than the city anticipated. “It’s a lot of work to maintain these things. You can’t just put them out there,” Bagley added.

Ultimately, Portsmouth’s great goat experiment failed. The city broke down and purchased two heavy-duty mowers to maintain the grounds, according to The Virginian-Pilot. But Bagley says they will keep the goats around to help out where they can.

“The pilot program has taught us that definitely there are some uses [for the goats,]” Bagley said. “But I’m not sure the landfill is the right place for them.”


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What's Governments' Lighter Side?

It is an irreverent take on local and state government news.


Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...
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