Thursday, July 27, 2017 This Week's Paper

Going green with goats

Don Miller's goat of a business is quickly approaching its first birthday. What started out with a modest purchase of 15 bramble-eating farm animals last July has morphed into a full-on goatfest.

Miller, who employs 180 goats, three border collies, two Great Pyrenees, one sheep and two humans, has made it his mission to clear unwanted vegetation in an environmentally friendly way.

A carpenter by trade, Miller's entrepreneurial side came up one day on a whim.

He said to himself, "I'm going to buy some goats," and the rest was history.

Well, not quite. First, Miller needed to convince his uncle, now a prime investor in Goat Trimmers, that he should take stock in his novel business idea.

He pitched his idea to his uncle, who replied, "People don't pay to rent goats," and he hung up. A couple minutes later, Miller's uncle called back to say he "was in."

Since then, Goat Trimmers have been clearing lots, roadsides, river beds, backyards and other commercial or residential spaces that have been taken over by invasive plants.

Miller said bringing in the goats is more environmentally friendly than machinery, and "They fertilize for free."

A typical job takes 50 to 70 goats, which are released on the property and eat for 24 hours straight. Since they eat from the top down, seeds are not spread to re-root, and the goats can venture up inclines that machines, and humans, may not be able to scale.

And the goats will eat pretty much anything.

"Goats love blackberry bushes, they eat ivy, morning glory - some of the biggest weeds we have, they'll eat," he said.

The sheep department, which Miller said he plans to expand on in the future, prefers to munch on straight grass.

Miller's prices vary depending on the job description, but they typically start at $300 a day, which is about 60 goats for a full 24 hours.

In addition to the eco-friendly aspect of the business, the sheer novelty of a pack of goats cannot be denied.

"People enjoy the goats coming to their house," he said.

A recent job clearing a lot near the Home Depot store on South 72nd Street in Tacoma created so much attention, the parking lot needed to be blocked off to keep people at bay.

The high visibility of the goats along the Interstate 5 corridor created a bit of intrigue for drivers-by.

"That was probably one of our more attractive jobs, where everyone came by," he said.

Miller has other high-profile jobs at area malls, including the Super Mall in Auburn and the Capital Mall in Olympia. Goat Trimmers will take jobs as far south as Portland. Soon, they will make their mark at Renton Municipal Airport.

He said even owners of a few properties in Los Angeles have shown interest in his service, but that is just a little too far to travel with the "high maintenance" animals.

Miller cautions anyone who thinks getting a goat could be the easy answer to all their overgrown needs.

Goat Trimmers has adopted countless rescued goats that were abandoned by owners who did not realize the scope of care that goats require.

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