2017-05-05 / Front Page / JT Beacon

'Scapegoats' not kidding around

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By ED PIERCE
Executive Editor

KENNEBUNK — The hottest trend in eco-friendly landscaping has arrived in York County in the form of a team of shaggy, gruff and bleating creatures eager to make a meal of overgrown brush.

Heather Lombard of Kennebunk launched a business called "Scapegoats" last year and offers a unique service to rid land and properties of invasive plants and overgrown vegetation using goats.

"This started with a casual conversation with a friend about land management," Lombard said. "I had recently quit my job in mental health and spent three months on the Appalachian Trail. When I returned, I knew I wanted to pursue my love of animals and being outside."

She said when she first heard about the concept of goat landscaping, something clicked.

"I grew up going to the Fryeburg Fair and loved hanging out in the livestock section. I never owned goats before, but always loved the idea," Lombard said. "I'd like to maintain two herds for brush-clearing and possibly branch into dairy and breeding in the future. I love the 'green' aspect of goat brush-clearing as opposed to using harsh chemicals or machinery."

Scapegoats features a herd of seven to 14 goats ranging from 160-pound Alpines to 70-pound Nigerian Dwarf goats that are brought to a property and contained by an electric fence for one or two weeks while they work. The goats defoliate between one-quarter to one-third of an acre of brush and unwanted vegetation in a week's time.

"Goats clear unwanted vegetation and invasive plants from properties, such as bittersweet and poison ivy, which is not poisonous to goats," Lombard said. "It's $600 for seven full days and seven goats."

In the year since she started her business, Lombard has formed a bond with her goats.

"I love the relationships I've created with the goats. Each goat has his or her own personality. They have given me a sense of purpose and I enjoy that I am also giving them one, through their work," she said. "I enjoy how people react to this venture and how much joy the goats bring the customers on the jobs."

According to Lombard, the current goat landscaping season is in full swing and stretches into September and October.

And another benefit from the service is soil improvement.

"Their manure helps create better quality soil for future desired planting," Lombard said. "Scapegoats serves all types of lands from residential to municipal, as long as the vegetation is what the goats ordered."

She said that goats are often misunderstood and people unfamiliar with them may have misconceptions perpetuated by movies and television.

"The biggest misconception is that goats will eat everything and anything. They are actually quite picky, some more than others," Lombard said. "Some plants are toxic to them, such as sheep laurel and cherry."

The goats are only a step in the process of eliminating unwanted vegetation from properties.

"What's left  —  they eat the green, not the woody stems  — still needs to be uprooted and I recommend covering the area with landscape fabric for a full cycle of seasons to further inhibit regrowth," Lombard said. "And renting them out for a few years in a row would help with the eradication." 

Besides Alpines and Nigerian Dwarfs, the Scapegoats herd includes Lamanchas, mixed breeds and an Oberhasli and range in age from 1- to 7-years-old. Five more kids will be joining the team in June.

Lombard says the youngest goat of the group bosses the other goats around, including some five times his size.

"He is definitely growing up to be the alpha," she said. "Carlito is his name."

The goats are tame and some are curious and friendly toward humans.

"One of the families that hired my goats last summer in Falmouth had three young children," Lombard said. "They were so enthralled with the goats and took a couple of them on walks every day outside of the fence line and in the neighborhood on dog leashes."

Scapegoats offers free consultations and Lombard says that feedback from the public about her business has been very positive.

"There are a lot of goats lovers out there," she said. "People seem to enjoy the novelty of it and also the chemical-free approach to clearing their lands."

For more information about Scapegoats, visit www.ecoscapegoats.com or call 210-4713.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 326, or by email at editor@journaltribune.com.

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