SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake City elementary school has found a cheap, chemical-free way to clear weeds from a treacherous hillside: A team of hungry goats.

For the third year in a row, a herd of goats is being used to landscape the tricky terrain at Washington Elementary School.

Ordinarily, the 4 Leaf Ranch brings 100 to 200 goats to devour the overgrown vegetation. But ranch owner Greg Cover says because of other commitments, only 50 goats were available.

The district loves to use the goats because it avoids using chemicals around children, and it saves money, said Ricardo Zubiate, assistant director of facility services for the Salt Lake City School District. Using a landscaping crew would cost up to $8,000 to clean out the dry cheat grass on the hillside. The goats, on the other hand, can do it for about $3,000, Zubiate said.

“They’re very good employees,” he said. “They’re very good at what they do.”

Because of the smaller herd, the goats were scheduled to spend a full week at the school tidying up the yard. A ranch hand tends the goats throughout the contract period, moving electric fences to confine the herd in specific areas to speed up the grazing and to ensure none escape.

4 Leaf Ranch has also handled jobs for Granite School District and been hired to thin vegetation along Legacy Highway, at Willard Bay, in Lambs Canyon and at Camp Williams.

The Salt Lake City School District is a repeat customer because “each time they come in, they’re very successful in what they do,” Zubiate said.

“We like goats,” he said.