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May 1, 2009

Google trades lawnmowers for goats

Posted: 05:26 PM ET

Here's a buzzworthy Friday-afternoon topic: Google announced on its blog that it has traded in lawn mowers for grass-chewing goats at its Mountain View headquarters in California.

"No 'kidding,'" the post says.

A herder brings about 200 goats and they spend roughly a week with us at Google, eating the grass and fertilizing at the same time. The goats are herded with the help of Jen, a border collie. It costs us about the same as mowing, and goats are a lot cuter to watch than lawn mowers.

The post is getting a lot of talk on Twitter (check that out here), but it's not a new idea. The city of Los Angeles hired goats to gnaw down some of its brush.

The goats don't burn fossil fuels and, as Google says, don't cost too much either.

Here's more from TechCrunch:

Google is renting the goats from a company called California Grazing. Apparently, every so often a herder will bring about 200 of them to the campus and they’ll roam around for a week eating the grass. Not only that, these goats will fertilize the land at the same time — yes, that way.

Filed under: Google

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Tom   May 2nd, 2009 3:33 am ET

surely sheep would be better... Goats chew shrubs and tree seedings. Great if their plot is a bit overgrown but if they want a lawn, bring sheep in....
Said with considerable experience after my goats ate my fruit trees rather than my shaggy lawn.

Greg   May 2nd, 2009 5:18 am ET

But how do they bring the 200 goats to Google's campus? I hope not by trucks as that would defeat the purpose

missd   May 2nd, 2009 8:14 am ET

Okay this is a genius idea Google; but I wouldn't expect anything less from you guys. Goats ARE cuter than lawn mowers!

Ray Donald   May 2nd, 2009 12:07 pm ET

Cute, but won't the goats create a lot of methane – which is a far more damaging greenhouse gas than CO2?

Jeff   May 2nd, 2009 8:59 pm ET

I think this is great. If we begin to see more things like this across the nation then having a green mindset will become more entrenched especially in the young.

branden Jenifer   May 3rd, 2009 3:25 pm ET

good thinking!!!! what company will be next to replace there lawnmowers

Rainer   May 3rd, 2009 10:58 pm ET

This is all well and good and sounds nice until you look at the logistics:

1. It takes gas to get the goats there. 200 goats won't show up on a single truck, either, try 3 or more. Not quite low carbon.

2. It's pretty sorry fertilization, though this is more for humor's sake. You'll have a nice spotty yard, the same way the grass always grows greener over the septic'll have spots of fertilized grass. Also, asthetically, I doubt the freshly mowed lawn is evenly trimmed. "Missed a spot!" probably won't work with them.

3. They only stick around for a week. So, eliminating the grass occasionally as Google needed works, but as a permanent mowing replacement: nope.

4. Many green activists warn against significant animal farming because of the amount of methane released by them. And that's not released through their pores.

The question remains: how many people praised Google for their earth friendly actions? When you look at the reasons above, it's not so earth friendly. For fun, it's got a lot of merit. It's the subtle, self-praise for being low-carbon that bothers me.

Nathan Moses   May 3rd, 2009 11:34 pm ET

My brother could do this. I will have to recommend it to him.

Ardith   May 4th, 2009 1:15 am ET

I've seen sheep used locally for the same thing.

kerry   May 4th, 2009 8:29 am ET

Great idea. Someone needs to tell California Grazing that their 'contact us' link is broken.

Eric   May 4th, 2009 9:47 am ET

Chattanooga Tennessee been using goats for years to eat Kudzu –

midwest mom   May 4th, 2009 1:38 pm ET

I suggested this to my husband a few months ago...I think it is a great idea..Google-where ideas are put into action!

Florida cracker   May 4th, 2009 2:27 pm ET

I remember visiting my Alabama Grandma, she would borrow the neighbors goat, stake it out in the front yard and let it do what it did naturally. She never did own a lawnmower, that was over 30 years ago.

Cory   May 4th, 2009 4:09 pm ET

I hope they figure out that goats don't really like to eat grass. Goats will eat the weeds, shrubs and tree bark before they will touch grass. Maybe they should have gone for sheep instead.

PLL   May 5th, 2009 12:34 am ET

Is the journalist for this article a fresh high school graduate or what? This method of using goat or sheep to clear grass is not new at all in Sillicon Valley. Then again, this is CNN, they would pulish insane articles such as the plight of the housing flippers and expect readers to feel sorry. CNN is just lazier and lazier each day.....

Gregg   May 5th, 2009 8:29 am ET

What about the methane that depletes the atmosphere?

Catapult   May 5th, 2009 8:31 am ET

Rainer: you missed a couple of important points.

Goats like to eat stuff. Their diet is varied and grass is only a small part of it, so you can kiss your shrubs, trees (they'll eat the bark off them) flowers and occasional clothing items goodbye.

Also, anyone entering their domain is likely to be subjected to a headbutt, which can result in personal injury.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen. Making a good idea actually work often takes genius.

Gloria   May 5th, 2009 11:07 am ET

What a great way to be green!

please   May 5th, 2009 12:06 pm ET


1. Your point about gas for transportation is invalid because the lawnmowers (people and vehicles) need to be transported as well. I'd call that a wash. The goats do not use gas to operate, so that is a win in the goat column.

4. Your point about activists warning of animal methane emission is invalid because these animals exist with or without Google's employment, and they are going to release methane whether they are gardening or just living. Lawnmowers on the other hand are a choice and do not have to be used.

Brian   May 5th, 2009 1:07 pm ET

I concur with Ranier's comments wholeheartedly....nice top-line PR but the reality of the environmental impact is much more spotty.

I would be quite interested to know if anybody at Google even thought about doing some sort of net-net analysis on the fossil fuel consumption and carbon footprint of trucking these goats around compared to the current lawn mowing regimen.

Google could just have made it a corporate policy to let their campus grow "au-natural" and completely dispense with the process. Or, if they are completely committed to this, let the goats live on the Google campus instead of shipping them in.

Dave   May 5th, 2009 3:03 pm ET

Good idea.....on paper.
Wait until one of these things butts an employee.
In our lawsuit happy society, Google will get hit with a big lawsuit.

Chris Knox   May 5th, 2009 3:59 pm ET

Goats are browsers, that is they eat brush, shrubs, weeds and tree bark and branches. (Keep them away from valuable trees.) The picture shows them eating in dense brush. This is precisely what they're good at. If you want your lawn mowed a sheep works better. In many parts of California the brush needs to be removed because of the fire hazard, among other reasons.
What needs to be factored into the equation is the potential value of the meat and milk that would also be produced, and the fact that the animals themselves reproduce themselves. I've never seen a lawmower reproduce itself.
Also consider not just the carbon footprint of running a lawmower, but the additional cost of it's production and eventual disposal.
Yes, the goats (and/or sheep) would be best raised on-site.

Randall Arnold   May 6th, 2009 10:30 am ET

I love the naysayers raining on the parade here.

Let's consider some counterpoints to the complaints:

– if the job requires 200 goats, then we're talking considerable real estate. Google was already paying a lawn service previously, and they too would expend fuel and create fumes in transporting the lawn care equipment... and then more with use of lawnmowers (I'm betting more than one, possibly several)

– This could be done in conjunction with livestock practices. Graze the animals on multiple landscapes until slaughter time, while simultaneously breeding for the next batch of "mowers"

Etc etc etc. You naysayers kill me. You only complain about pollution if it's caused by some method outside the extant status quo. You're okay with swelling landfills, toxic drinking water and polluted air until an electric car or wind-powered generator or alternative lawn care method is proposed... then suddenly you're a newly converted environmental zealot.

Spare us all.

But I do agree that perhaps sheep may be the better solution here. Anyway, kudos to Google for at least trying something different. That takes guts in this age of cynics...

Rob G.   May 6th, 2009 11:05 am ET

There would, probably, be more consistent "mowing" and fertilization AND a lack of fuel burned for transportation costs, if they would just build a barn, out back, for a smaller herd, perhaps the sheep rather than the goats, and let the graze there all the time. Maybe that's being considered.

anonymous   May 7th, 2009 5:49 pm ET

Whenever a company tries to do something good, there always has to be someone who has something negative to say. Thats what brings us down, we need to think positive instead of putting down when a company tries to do something good for the enviorment or community.

PolO Avilès   May 7th, 2009 10:03 pm ET

Why not elephants ?
You know... from the fertilizer side.

Jimbo   May 8th, 2009 4:36 pm ET

I have to agree with many of the points about the trade-offs of this approach; yes it's more fun to watch goats eating the grass than listening to the gas mowers power their way through it, the fertilizer point is funny but not really effective.

I think they'd be better served by using push mowers. Pay employees or others that might be willing to go cut grass during their lunch hour. No carbon emissions, no goat transport, looks much better, provides exercise and income for people, and nowhere near as loud as power equipment, etc.

Triunegroup   May 15th, 2009 6:01 pm ET

So what if you take the goats to the grazing location by truck, bus or helicopter. It's one trip to drop them off, and then they are off and grazing vs. having the tractor or lawn mower there every week / other week. As a nation that prides ourselves having the smartest and brightest, we can sometimes be very short-sighted.

And for this reason, a tiny country like Denmark out shines us in technology and renewable energy.

Nico   August 16th, 2010 4:52 pm ET

Why does everybody keep bringing up methane gas. The animals are going to eat one way or another whether it be Google's yard or in some farm and they will release the gas. It's not like we can we're just going to kill all the animals on earth because they make the gas just the same way we wouldn't stop breathing to stop carbon dioxide production. There's way better things to be worrying about in regards to global warming than goat's methane production.

really??   October 8th, 2010 9:27 am ET

this is bull shit theres someone out the that just lost there job to a goat. that guy is pissed i bet ya. theres all this talk to there should be new job to be put in place to help the average american. were soppose to be putting america back to work not hiring something that does even know weres its at. google should have just hired a bunch of teenager to cut the grass that would have better then goats. i think that this is rediculus and retared. create job not trade them in...

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