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Goats Vs. Slopes

A treacherous landscaping job on Pitt's Upper Campus proved to be no obstacle for a herd of goats.

The team of caprine workers conquered a nearly vertical hillside, stripping it of weeds, brush and vines — all in the service of safely and sustainably beautifying campus before students returned for fall term.

Though the goats will be gone before most students arrive, people on campus through the summer might have spotted the herd grazing on upper campus as late as Aug. 16.

Last year for the first time, Pitt hired a dozen animals from Have U Herd goatscaping company to tame some overgrown vegetation. Their insatiable and indiscriminate appetites and immunity to the effects of poison ivy make goats terrific brush clearers.

Beginning around July 4, the grounds department division of Facilities Management brought in 16 goats to graze a larger area behind Eberly Hall, said Andy Moran, senior manager of grounds.

On Monday, the herd moved to the intersection of University Drive A and C, below the SC lot at the Falk School.

“This will be the steepest section that they have attempted,” said Moran. “It’s a pretty much vertical section,” which would be near-impossible to access for workers using ordinary landscaping tools.

“The possibility of work injuries is a huge savings,” said Moran, “and of course saving on emissions from equipment, as well.”

Working about 200 feet at a time within an electric fenced enclosure, the goats graze on wild grapevines and sumac and are spending slightly more time on campus than they did in last year’s pilot test.

“For about six weeks now they’ve been nonstop eating,” said Moran. Since they leave behind a natural fertilizer, “we’re going to consider planting some native trees on the hillside possibly this fall, depending on construction,” he added.

“You can’t get much more sustainable.”