A child petting a goat（Shinji Sato/Aflo）
All over Japan, goats and sheep are being used to cut the grass. This is good for the environment as we don't need to use herbicides and there is no noise from lawnmowers. An adult goat is said to eat 6 to 10 kg per day, with no need to dispose of the grass cuttings and its dung being used as fertilizer. They do not need fuel or electricity like machines, as they eat grass for food and they can go up and down slopes where it is hard to use lawn mowing machines. The sight of goats and sheep grazing peacefully is soothing for the locals. There are a lot of benefits to having the animals around, such as a reduction in the illegal dumping of garbage that is potentially dangerous to them.
Working for us in comfort
A goat trimming the grass at a planned development site in front of the station (courtesy of Tachihi Holdings)
In order to have the animals trim the grass for us, we need to prepare fences and drinking water, etc (courtesy of World Ranch)
On the other hand, if humans don’t take care of these gentle grass-eating animals properly, they might run away and have an accident or get sick. For that purpose, facilities and care for them to stay safe are important, such as setting up fences, resting places, drinking fountains. An animal may cry because it is frightened if you keep it on its own, so they need to be kept in groups. They also need to be given regular health checks and kept an eye on every day. If you provide the right environment the goats and sheep to work in comfort, they are also more active.
An illustration of the ideal environment and necessary equipment drawn up by α Green, a company with a patent to manage green spaces using goats. There are fences, resting places and drinking water provided
A small hut or resting place with roof where the animals can escape from the rain and the sun-light are provided (courtesy of World Ranch)
Goats are animals that used to be part of our lives in olden times
Having the grass trimmed by animals not just in suburban meadows and up in the mountains, but also in city areas with lots of houses and buildings, is one of Japan's unique features. Now there are around 20,000 goats in Japan, but right up to the 1960s there were around 300,000 of them and they were a familiar part of everyday life. That is why many older people feel nostalgic thinking about how they were brought up as children drinking goats’ milk. From a child’s point of view goats are kind and cute creatures. For adults the sight of them grazing is soothing. It is said that having goats around becomes a common topic of conversation and prompts different generations to talk to each other, helping to make the local community stronger. This might also be one of the reasons that this ecologically-friendly form of grass cutting has become popular in Japan.
Goats as Company Employees?
Goats wearing name tags around their necks that say “Belongs to the General Affairs Department.” (courtesy of Tachihi Holdings)
Goats trimming the grass in a busy spot near a station. Lots of people stop to look at them (courtesy of Tachihi Holdings)
Recently more and more companies, local governments, hospitals and universities etc., have been using animals to cut the grass. Some companies have "Goat Employees" working for them, as they want to be environmentally friendly and contribute to the local community. It seems that people like to see the goats wearing their name tags, hard at work eating and weeding the grass; and events where local residents and the goat grass-cutting teams can get together have become very popular. "We are able to bring enjoyment to people in the local community and this is worth a lot more than just mowing the grass," said the person in charge.
Ecologically friendly grass cutting using animals that eat the grass looks set to increase more and more in the future. It may not be long before the familiar scenes with goats and sheep become commonplace.
Everyone loves the baby goat born during the grass-cutting period (courtesy of Tachihi Holdings)
Petting sessions with local residents are important work, as well as the grass cutting (courtesy of World Ranch)