Farmington Hills hires goat to chomp vegetation

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Farmington Hills City Hall is set to welcome a new worker: a weed-eating goat.

As part of a vegetation management program, “Pilot” will be tethered near the storm water detention basin at the campus near 11 Mile and Orchard Lake, munching away on “invasive plants that need to be cleaned out,” city officials said in a statement Tuesday.

The goat was procured from Oakland County Animal Control when the Department of Public Services sought a way to remove the overgrowth without resorting to herbicides, which city officials said can contaminate surface and ground water.

“Goats provide a safe solution to problem vegetation and enhance the environment instead of harming it,” said Gary Mekjian, Public Services director in the statement. “Pilot will eat the phragmites and several other invasive plant species. Plus he’ll stomp down the plants with his pointed hooves and keep them from growing back.”

There’s also another benefit. The goat’s droppings “are primarily plant matter and will essentially function as a fertilizer,” providing “nutrient-rich organic matter that will actually improve soil conditions on the land near the detention basin,” city officials said.

City staffers are expected to monitor Pilot each weekday. Though he’s considered domesticated and docile, the public is asked not to pet or disturb him while the goat is “working.”

At night, Pilot will be housed at a special pen in a fenced area behind police headquarters; on weekends, he heads to a nearby home, where a resident who tends other neutered goats has volunteered to care for him, city officials said.

The move isn’t new, they said. “Goats are being used in several metropolitan areas and on forward-thinking private business campuses, such as Google, as an eco-friendly means of removing unwanted vegetation from open areas.”