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Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Goats get to work; no bleating for raises

By By the Advocate Editorial Board
Feb. 24, 2014 at 4:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 23, 2014 at 8:24 p.m.


Riverside Park has become goat country. The city of Victoria has allowed a group of 26 Boer-Spanish cross goats to chew their way through the Grover's Bend section of the park. In fact, the city is paying them to do it.

As the Advocate previously reported, the goats belong to Susan and Terry Hatfield, who are renting their goats to the city of Victoria for eight weeks as a trial run to see if the goats will be an effective alternative to using manpower to clear the brush along the river. The city is paying the Hatfields $9,600 for the trial, which was first suggested by City Councilman Tom Halepaska.

Colby VanGundy, director of Parks and Recreation, says the goats are on the third week of the trial, and they are making a dent in the brush right now. Once the trial period is over, the city plans to examine how much land was cleared and use that information to create a comparison to how long it would take for manpower to clear the same amount of land and what the difference in cost would be.

This is an interesting concept, and we applaud the city for thinking outside the box in an effort to save money and clear away brush to expand access to the river. Riverside Park is one of Victoria's best assets, and we are pleased to see the city continue to work to improve it for visitors and residents.

If the goats keep up with politics - with recent debates in other areas of the country about raising the minimum wage - health care coverage and more, we wonder if they will begin to organize. Is there any risk of the goats choosing to unionize to bleat for better working conditions or covered parking for their trailer? And what about their wages? Will all the foliage they can eat be enough, or will they strike and demand minimum wage? Will the city need to offer insurance to help pay veterinary bills for possible indigestion problems?

This baah-rrage of complicated questions is something for the city to consider when putting together its assessment at the end of the trial period. Goats are hardy creatures, but they are also stubborn. The city will need an iron-clad contract if the goats are to continue their work in the park. And it should probably be put somewhere out of reach so the goats don't try to eat it as well.

But we wouldn't worry too much about indigestion. From what VanGundy says, the goats are enjoying their feast in the park. "They eat that stuff like candy," he said.

Hopefully, that will be payment enough.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.

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