The south entrance to the Silver Woods community was looking unkempt, with about eight different invasive species threatening to take over the area’s ground cover and the trees.
The neighborhood is located west of Apopka-Vineland Road and near the chain of lakes, so the homeowners’ association was against spraying chemicals to kill the weeds. Bringing in heavy machinery wouldn’t work, either.
Zach Capps, president of the Silver Woods Community Association, said the HOA came up with an alternative idea — hire goats to do the work of clearing the invasives.
“This is a novel approach to controlling out-of-control vegetative growth that is both environmentally friendly and economical,” Capps said.
What nature created over the course of several years, the rented goats are destroying in a matter of weeks.
The HOA contracted with South Central Florida Rent-A-Ruminant, a company that does just that — rents out its goats to tackle big grounds-keeping jobs.
A herd of 25 goats — Pygmy, Nigerian Dwarf, Pygmy crosses, Nigerian Dwarf crosses, Nubians and Nubian Spanish crosses — with names like Cutie, Jingle, Pebbles and Sparkles is living its best life, spending all day eating everything green in the area. The oldest is 5, and the youngest is 8 months.
The goats are being corralled behind a low-voltage electric fence for 15 days, eating by day and sleeping in a trailer by night. Head goat wrangler Carol Etscovitz, who owns the franchise with her husband, Dave, stays on the job site with the animals. She said 25 goats can clear a quarter of an acre in nine days.
This is the company’s second stint with the goats. The Etscovitzes started Rent-A-Ruminant a year ago, she said, and they have been busy growing their herd, getting the animals and the farm registered with the United States Department of Agriculture, and purchasing equipment. Their goal is to have 60 goats.
The Etscovitzes originally bought goats to keep their fences clear and their property maintained. They looked into the franchise after deciding their goats needed gainful employment, they wrote on their website.
“We love the green aspect, the ethics that are involved in being a part of the Rent-A-Ruminant franchise and the utmost respect given to our animals as members of a team,” their website states. They like the idea of serving the land-clearing needs of the area “in a green, chemical-free, fuel-free, low-impact manner.”
In addition, goats can go where people and machinery cannot easily or safely go, and they eliminate the need for hauling debris offsite.
Plus, the Etscovitzes said, “they’re cute, and people love them.”
Their goats will be in the Silver Woods community through the first of March.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.