Have you ever considered replacing your trusty lawn mower with a goat or two? I know, I know–the idea is a little out there. But the practice has been gaining popularity as a lawn mower alternative in recent years across the country.

Especially popular in western states such as California, companies and individuals are hiring herds of goats, sheep, cattle, and horses to control overgrown weeds and keep lawns tidy. They help reduce fire hazards, and they also help property owners avoid using fossil fuels and herbicides.

I live in a highly suburban area where goat-as-mower will never catch on as a lawn mower alternative because homeowners want their lawns to look perfectly manicured. But that doesn’t mean the method won’t become widespread in other areas. My brother-in-law lives on a somewhat rural acreage south of the Silicon Valley, and has rented his neighbor’s goats to trim up several acres of native grasses and weeds that would otherwise grow waist-high.

About 30 miles up Highway 101 in Mountain View, California, Internet giant Google used a huge herd of goats to mow down a field of weeds and reduce the area’s fire hazard. Other groups implementing the practice, called targeted grazing, include state highway departments, vineyards, and homeowners’ associations.

While the cost for using a herd of animals tends to be similar to what you’d spend on mowing these large areas, and sometimes even more, the environmental impact is much less. Who’d choose a nasty, noisy lawn tractor over a…nasty, noisy herd of goats? (Please don’t tell my kids I said that.)

Regardless of cost savings, visiting with the goats is always fun. We’ve personally experienced goats eating sticks and leaves right from our hands–and subsequently trying to eat the sleeves of our jackets. But the kids love them anyway, and apparently they’re not alone.