A Sunshine Coast man who hires out herbivores as weed busters is urging more people to consider getting a goat as a lawn mower.
Leo Phelan owns Arborcare Queensland, and for 25 years his team of arborists and ecologists has used traditional methods to manage trees and natural areas, and rehabilitate degraded environments.
But three years ago he established Eco-Goats, using the animals as an alternative to chemicals to graze weeds in difficult-to-access areas.
"Goats for me are a long-term passion, and we've evolved something else out of our business," Mr Phelan said.
"We ended up getting a grant from South East Queensland Catchments, and we went on a bit of a journey to see how goats could manage unmaintained ex-agricultural landscapes, and they've done it really well. So it turned into a business for us.
"We now run three tribes of goats, and essentially one tribe is the dairy on the farm and two tribes are managing weeds for companies and people.
"I can see goats evolving into a landscape management tool that will become vital for us in areas that we can't traditionally go with equipment, and that are too hard for labour to get involved with."
Mr Phelan said in areas where there had been crops such as bananas and paw paws, where the landscape had been denuded, weeds now colonised the area "because we don't practice those agricultural industries any more".
"If we can fence it we can put goats on it, so really that's what it's about," he said.
The moment Mr Phelan opens his gate, every one of his 19 kids come running, followed by their guardian Maremma sheepdogs, Ranger and Luna.
Every afternoon the kids are reunited with their dairy goat mothers, because at this stage the does are not being milked.
Mr Phelan is breeding up his herd of Toggenburgs, British Alpines and Australian Melaans to provide the next generation of weed busters.
The animals' first job involved tackling Japanese and Mexican sunflowers that were smothering native vegetation on some of the steepest slopes of the Blackall Range on the Sunshine Coast.
"It was something that I really hadn't had anything to do with. I was wondering how the heck am I going to get through this biomass of weed that was incredible," Mr Phelan said.
"We manage them by what we call 'target browsing' using electro nets.
"Once they know the electro nets are their boundary, the goats go to work and week by week they just decimate pretty much anything that has flowers, fruits and leaves.
"After they've taken out what their favourite forage is, they'll then go back and decimate the plant, and that's how it works for us.
"Then we'll move them on to our next area that we'll browse.
"Once the plants grow again, we take the goats back and defoliate again, and that then sends the plant into a physiological downward turn.
"The idea is that continual browsing creates pressure on the target weed, and that will then allow other plants to evolve."
In the test case of managing the Japanese sunflower, the goats worked.
"This is a plant that the goats thrive on. It's actually a high protein plant and the goats just love it," Mr Phelan said.
A large property group has since hired Eco-Goats to work on weed-choked development sites.
"They definitely have done the job. The particular company that we're working for has identified another contract with us," Mr Phelan said.
"We've had them down there for three months and they're very happy with how [the goats are] working on their landscape."
Lantana shrubs and camphor laurel trees are poisonous to goats, but there are plenty of other weeds on their menu.
"Fireweed is another plant that is toxic to most monogastric and ruminant animals," Mr Phelan said.
"Goats have the ability to browse some toxic plants like that because of the pH of their rumen and how they physically work.
"A lot of people will be thinking, yeah but they're going to be actually producing viable seed out their back end, but that's not the case.
"Goats basically have a low pH. They are able to desiccate the seed in their rumen prior to it being removed from the body, and it doesn't produce viable seed."
Goats are never going to make Mr Phelan millions, but he said he felt richer for the experience.
"If you're having a bad day you go along and say g'day to Bailey, Ruby — any of those goats," he said.
"In the 25 years that I've been working in vegetation management — here I am today talking to you about goats managing vegetation — it just blows me away.
"I love this place. We're using animals for what they're meant to do.
"My passion now is to turn this place, Rosemount farm CSA, into a place that people can come along and learn how goats work in a small farm, a micro-dairy, and how to manage their place if they've got a lifestyle block."
Mr Phelan said that rather than letting weeds grow or wondering what people could do, they should get some dairy goats.
"They'll bring you milk, they can bring you meat if that's the way you think about those things, but most of all they can be your lawnmower," he said.
"There's lots of things that goats can do, but in the rushed, everyday lives that we have, I think they just bring me calm."