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These cute, eco-friendly grazing goats help maintain power lines outside Chicago

ComEd uses a herd of 200 animals to manage vegetation in hard to reach areas

A brown and white goat looks up at the camera. The animal has a tiny white hard hat that says ComEd and a red and white bandana around its neck.
A grazing goat sporting a ComEd hat and a bandana reading “Employee of the munch.”
Courtesy ComEd

eUnder the backdrop of Alexander Calder’s iconic Flamingo sculpture, Chicagoans got a chance to meet some cute goats in the Loop’s Federal Plaza on Friday. The pop-up petting zoo provided an opportunity to learn how ComEd is using a herd of the animals to manage foliage in downstate Pekin, Illinois.

The herd of more 200 goats is hired from Ames, Iowa, and prevents the growth of trees, which can obstruct power lines. The practice is a safe, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly way for the utility company to ensure reliable service for customers.

“The goats graze for about two or three weeks,” Eily Kramer, a vegetation management expert with ComEd, tells Curbed Chicago. “Due to steep ravines, it’s a dangerous spot for people to reach and we can’t send equipment in there. The goats are an eco-friendly way to keep the lights on for our customers and keep our employees safe.”

A fenced in pen with three goats, three adults, and two children in Chicago’s Federal Plaza. A large orange sculpture by artist Alexander Calder is visible in the background.
Onlooker had a chance to pet a few of the four-legged ComEd “employees” during Friday’s lunch hour.
Jay Koziarz

Grazing herds are an increasingly popular and sustainable way to manage vegetation. O’Hare International Airport has employed its own herd of goats, sheep, and donkeys since 2013. The animals are used on rocky and hilly areas of the airport grounds that are difficult for diesel- or gas-powered landscaping equipment to reach.

“We plan on sending them back again next year, which means we can use less herbicide,” explains Kramer. Meanwhile, ComEd is looking into bringing the animals to other areas in the future. “I think we’re the first utility in the Midwest to try this,” says Kramer.

A herd of white, black, and brown goats feeding, walking, sitting down, and resting. They are in a sloped area with tall grasses, bushes, and trees.
The grazing herd in action in Pekin, Illinois.