Pittsburgh’s favorite lawn-mowing goats need your help because winter sucks

Don’t forget treats for their guard donkeys, Hobo and Diamond.

Winter snacks.

Winter snacks.

Courtesy of Allegheny GoatScape / facebook
MJ Slaby

Pittsburghers are tired of winter — and so are the goats of Allegheny GoatScape.

While they actually do well in cold temperatures (the goats, not yinzers), winter is their offseason, meaning they aren’t getting nutrients from mowing down vegetation in vacant lots and public spaces, said Gavin Deming, the organization’s executive director.

The North Side-based nonprofit supplies goats and their guard donkeys as eco-friendly lawn mowers who clear overgrown vegetation in spots such as the Great Allegheny Passage trail, South Side Park and Carnegie Mellon University.

But in the winter, they have time off.

The goats mostly spend the cold season huddled together for warmth and like to bask in the sun when it’s out, Deming said, adding it’s also the time for vet visits and hoof care.

And while the goats and donkeys are eating hay these days, it’s not as nutritious as their summer diets (which honestly, same). Normally, they eat more nutritious second-cut hay, but due to last year’s wet summer, Deming said he wasn’t able to get it, so the hay is drier, and the goats need extra vitamins to stay healthy.

All of that costs extra money, so the organization is trying to raise $5,185 on community-led crowdfunding platform ioby to pay for winter care for the two herds and their guard donkeys, Hobo and Diamond.

Through “Winter Care for the Allegheny GoatScape Herd,” donors can help with treats for Hobo and Diamond ($10), hay for one day ($11), goat pellets and supplements for two weeks ($50), a trip to the vet for one goat ($70), or a $500 wellness check. (Donations are also accepted on Allegheny GoatScape’s website.)

Allegheny GoatScape, founded in 2017, is still trying to become sustainable, Deming said, and while this year’s fundraiser isn’t for one big item — past fundraisers secured a trailer and Diamond, the second guard donkey — the items for winter care are “certainly necessary in the winter months.”

When they’re not working in the winter, the 10 goats on “Team Hobo” and the five on “Team Diamond” live on a city-owned lot with their donkeys and a three-sided shelter for each herd. “It’s really important they stay out of the wind,” Deming said, adding that goats are hearty animals that prefer the sun but don’t mind the cold.

There, they eat twice a day, take supplements, and drink five to 10 gallons of water per herd per day, he said. Plus, they eat treats including sunflower seeds and orange rinds to add to their diets. Deming said the donkeys “want their treats just as much as the goats do, probably more so.”

Each herd has a distinct personality, as does each animal. Team Hobo has been working together for five years, since they were Steel City Grazers, which Deming took over and renamed Allegheny GoatScape in 2017. This herd loves to eat and always goes to where the food is, he said. Team Diamond, however, is more polite. “They are newer to it.”

When they go back to work depends on the weather, though the goal is to have the goats back out by May 1. Their 2019 workload is set, and there’s even a wait list for the goats.

This summer, they’ll be at South Side and Frick parks, as well as multiple college campuses, where the public can see the goats working and where they can do the most public good by clearing vegetation, Deming said. He hopes to create a public calendar of where the goats are this year, too.

“I’m looking forward to being [out] again … We just got to make through winter first,” he said.