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NEWS Last modified on August 14, 2013

Grazing goats to help keep the grass down at Chicago O'Hare

Many thought Chicago O’Hare was kidding when it revealed plans to introduce a herd of goats to graze on grass and weeds in a hard-to-mow parts of the airport.

Well, it wasn’t, and true to its word, the gateway yesterday unveiled its newest workers – 25 goats, sheep, llamas and small donkeys as part of the Chicago Department of Aviation’s Sustainable Vegetation Management initiative.

The herd actually arrived at the airport in late July 2013 and began its work on up to 120 acres of land on four sites that have been identified for grazing on O’Hare property. 

All the sites are located in areas away from or separated from the airfield by security fencing and include hilly areas along creeks or streams and roadway right-of ways that are overcrowded with dense scrub vegetation that’s difficult to maintain with traditional landscaping equipment. 



The services will continue until weather no longer permits grazing and will resume in the summer and fall of 2014.

The contract for the herd to be used in the pilot programme was awarded to local firm, Central Commissary Holdings, LLC, which cares for a herd outside the city.

According to the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), the contract expires at the end of 2014 and its value will not exceed $19,500.

The RFQI stated that contractors whose herds contain grazing animals that were once rescued from inhumane treatment would be preferred. 

Central Commissary has partnered with Settler’s Pond, a shelter that specializes in the rescue of farm and exotic animals.

“On behalf of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, we’re thrilled to bring this unique programme to O’Hare,” says CDA Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino.

“This pilot initiative is another example of an aviation industry green initiative that also complements the City of Chicago’s commitment to sustainability at Chicago’s airports.

“The use of a grazing herd will provide economic, environmental and operational benefits for the airport and the community.”



Central Commissary is responsible for their care during the time they are on airport property.

Economic benefits of the initiative are said to include:

– Decreased landscape maintenance costs.

– A more efficient way of removing vegetation along steep embankments, and rocky and wooded areas that are difficult to maintain with traditional mowing or spraying.

– Elimination of overgrown areas helps to reduce habitat for wildlife that pose safety concerns for flight operations near the airport. An alternative to toxic herbicides, and, in some cases, will eliminate the use of equipment that produce emissions.

Similar programmes have been implemented successfully at Seattle-Tacoma, San Francisco, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta airports.

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