Move over chickens and bees; goats could be bound for St. Louis

2013-08-27T00:15:00Z 2014-06-10T16:58:43Z Move over chickens and bees; goats could be bound for St. LouisBy Nicholas J.C. Pistor npistor@post-dispatch.com 314-436-2239 stltoday.com

ST. LOUIS • The city’s rooftop bees and backyard chickens could soon be joined by goats.

While the city has allowed various types of urban farming in recent years, Mayor Francis Slay would like to add goats to the list with the aim of using them for mowing on city property. He said his office will likely seek approval from the Board of Aldermen when it returns from summer break next month.

Some residents would like to see the city go one step further and allow city residents to own goats, which isn’t part of Slay’s current informal proposal. But it could be.

“In a city that’s already growing corn and sunflowers on vacant lots, a goat debate offers another interesting moment in our determined effort to make the city more sustainable — and fun,” Slay wrote on his blog.

Livestock mowing isn’t a new concept. President Woodrow Wilson used sheep to trim the White House grass during World War I. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport recently started using goats (and llamas and sheep) to trim areas of the airfield that are inaccessible to mowers. Paris has tried the concept for its city gardens.

Goats are considered an economical and environmentally friendly alternative for removing large swaths of grass and weeds.

Slay said any use of goats for mowing would come with “plenty of conditions.”

Alderman Shane Cohn, 25th Ward, said he would support the cost-effective measure because it would enable the city to focus on “improving services that impact the quality of life for residents.”

The cost of goat mowing is slightly more than half that of using traditional mowers and manpower, according to city estimates.

Cohn said he encouraged the city to consider a goat initiative a few year ago, but it went nowhere.

But if the city starts using goats, residents may want them, too. Slay said his office gets several inquires a week about the pasturing of goats within city limits.

Jennifer S. Kovar, a St. Louis lawyer, said she would like to try raising small livestock like “baby doll sheep.”

“It would be great to have the ability to do that in the city,” Kovar said.

Michael Russo, 33, of St. Louis, said he would consider having a goat so he could make his own cheese.

“If this actually comes through, I think you will see a lot of us young city folk in support of this,” Russo said.

Goat cheese, goat milk and goat meat are all popular locally grown foods, many of which are commonly found at farmers markets.

Such farming could be aided by a recently approved state law that allows municipalities to create Urban Agricultural Zones in blighted areas, which would enable government incentives.

Other American cities have passed goat-friendly ordinances, including San Francisco and Portland, Ore.

St. Louis ordinances currently ban the keeping and raising of barnyard animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and swine. They do allow for Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs.

Miranda Duschack, a small farm specialist who operates Urban Buds: City Grown Flowers on five city lots in Dutchtown, said the consideration of goats is “very exciting” and that the city would be wise to allow residents to have them under the right conditions.

“The animals’ welfare should be the No. 1 consideration,” Duschack said. “Will they be safe, well cared for, treated humanely?”

Duschack noted that goats are “pretty wily.”

“They require good fencing, generally electric fencing,” she said.

And, she said, they are herd animals.

“People would need to have more than just one,” Duschack said.

Follow reporter Nick Pistor on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nickpistor

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