In just more than a week since nine goats were assigned to eat overgrown vegetation at an Augusta detention pond, officials and residents are already noticing a difference.
Zachary Bell, whose Sanderling Drive house sits in front of the pond, says he has had no issue with the neighborhood’s additions.
“You can really tell where they’ve been eating,” Bell said. “They haven’t made it all the way up to my house yet, but so far what the goats have done looks great. It’s going better than I expected.”
Environmental Health Manager Randy Wishard has checked on the goats a number of times since they went to work Aug. 13.
However, because Wishard is still waiting on a gate key from the Augusta Engineering Department, the health manager says it’s difficult to get an exact idea of how fast the goats are working.
“Overall, they look great. They really do,” he said. “They’re eating and drinking well, and from what I can tell, the (2.8-acre site) already looks better. I’ll know a lot more once I’m able to get inside the fence.”
Bell, who lives less than 20 yards from the detention pond fence, says the goats keep to themselves.
“They haven’t been a distraction,” he said. “The goats are quiet and don’t bother any of us. Crickets are louder at night than they are.”
Modeled after similar efforts using goats or sheep to graze on unwanted vegetation in other cities, Augusta’s goat project was suggested in January at a meeting of the Richmond County Board of Health to reduce mosquito breeding grounds.
Augusta Commission member Marion Williams, who serves on the health board, took the idea in May to the commission, which authorized the purchase of a few goats.
In total, Augusta has more than 700 detention ponds, with limited resources aside from occasional inmate labor to keep them maintained, according to the city’s Engineering Services department.
“When it comes to the goats, this whole thing is experimental,” said Fred Koehle, the special projects manager for Richmond County Mosquito Control. “Will it take them a month to get it done? Will it take six weeks? The bottom line is we don’t know. But if it works, we’ll definitely consider locating more goats at detention ponds throughout the county. Some of the detention ponds in Richmond County haven’t been cut in a year.”
Koehle says he made three trips to check on the goats.
“So far, it’s been very positive,” he said. “The goats have a hierarchy when it comes to eating … they start with the tallest grass because it has more flavor and work their way to the short stuff. I’m hoping it won’t be long before they eat everything to the nub.”