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Goats on the payroll

AYER — Ruth Maxant Schultz owns goats and has teamed up with the town to employ them to clear unwanted greenery across from the transfer station for the summer.

Last fall, Schultz proposed the idea to Mark Wetzel, director of the Department of Public Works. She had been reading articles about how the government was using goats to clean up federal land and thought her goats could provide similar services.

“I kept sending him (Wetzel) links and articles about the goats,” Schultz said. “He was very appreciative and receptive when I mentioned the goats and having them clean up the transfer station.”

The goats started working for the town this past fall and it was decided they were needed again for the summer.

“It’s relatively easy and inexpensive to have the goats out there,” Wetzel said. “It’s better than mobilizing heavy equipment, which is hard to get into that area anyway.”

The goats are out at the transfer station chowing down on greenery almost every day. Schultz brings them in the morning and picks them back up at night.

“It’s so easy for me to get them here,” Schultz said. “I don’t have to bring water or food or anything. It’s a perfect situation.”

Each goat earns $1 an hour. Wetzel said there are 7-25 goats at the transfer station.

“When they work they eat the greenery, twigs, poison ivy, so you don’t need to come in with a shredder or anything else,” Schultz said. “If they eat it often enough, it just won’t exist anymore and you’ll have a nice manicured lawn.”

The goats are protected in the area due to a chain link fence keeping them inside. But they have escaped a few times.

“Last year, they did find a place where the fence was a little too high and they crawled underneath it,” Schultz said. “I’ll have to do a little patching but they’re really good at getting out of places. ”

Schultz’s goats not only work for Ayer but have begun clearing greenery in Littleton. She also has had people from town reach out to her about having the goats clear in their yards.

“Last year, I took the goats over to people’s houses to eat the poison ivy,” Schultz said. “I’d be happy to have the goats going out to eat ivy or whatever people want them to.”

Although the goats are able to eat a lot of different things, they can get sick from overeating, said Schultz. She said if people see them, it’s okay to pull greens from the side of the road for them, but she does not encourage giving them human food.

“Even though they eat a lot of stuff they still can get sick and die from it,” she said.

The goats are expected to work all summer, except for rainy days.

“The goats like to eat and we have a lot of brush for them,” Wetzel said. “They’re happy to be there.”

And the DPW is happy to have them.

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