Weeders Digest Potential Fire Fuel
Meet Billy the GOAT (Grazer Over All Terrain). He and 149 friends made their annual visit to the Paradise Valley Estates smorgasbord in June. While the herd ate mostly the weeds and dry grass on hillsides and in the creek bed, some goats climbed as high as four feet for more delectable leafy greens.
Their menu includes whatever is available: poison oak and ivy, thistles, mustard, nettles, scrub oak, tree saplings and grass. To work off all those calories, the goats clear about an acre a day, turning slopes that are heavy with dry brush into what resembles a freshly mowed fairway. Plus, they fertilize and till the land.
Some goats wear bells to help locate the herd. The gentle ringing is a much-preferred alternative to the racket made by mechanical weed-removers.
The diners come from Martin Boer Goats in Tracy, where 1,000 goats are available for rent for eco-friendly brush and weed abatement. They were accompanied by herder David and a Great Pyrenees-Anatolian Shepherd, a breed of livestock guardian dog. David stayed in a trailer onsite, tending to escaped animals or those in distress, while the dog fended off predators such as coyotes.
During the fire last August, some flames actually sparked up in the middle of the campus behind a home, according to Facilities Director Frank Yates. “I can only imagine how much faster that small grass fire would have spread had we not had the goats on campus that June,” he said. “On a recent tour of Paradise Valley Estates, Fairfield Fire Marshal Steve Conti said he’s a big fan of using goats for weed abatement.”
Yates added that there is no economic advantage to using goats as opposed to machinery, but the goats do a more efficient job. They can handle steeper terrain and they naturally remove the “clippings” that machines leave behind.