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Goats to the Rescue in Fire-Prone Bay Area

Goats to the Rescue in Fire-Prone Bay Area

How does the saying go? Only you can prevent forest fires, or only goats can prevent forest fires? You’ll understand the confusion when you meet the Bay Area’s latest fire prevention crews: goats.

California is facing a forecast for what may be the worst fire season ever, thanks to drought conditions and a large buildup of tinder. Fire management professionals are working ahead of time to try to clear brush, high grass and other fire hazards, in the hopes of reducing the spread of the inevitable wildfires that are already streaking across the state.

A row of goats of different ages and sizes.

When it comes to brush clearance crews, it can be tough to find someone willing to do the job. It’s backbreaking labor conducted in the hot sun, and it takes hours to make a dent in overgrown shrubs and brush, which are often filled with tangles of thorns and other unpleasant surprises. Brush clearance can get extremely expensive, and it requires constant maintenance.

That’s one reason why people have been turning to rental goats to clear brush and keep areas like road verges, medians and hillsides trimmed. Farmers maintain herds who can be rented out for a reasonable fee to come by for a day, a week, or even longer to clear an area and maintain it. Goats can tackle not just weeds and grass, but also small trees and woody shrubs, and they eat pretty much indiscriminately, clearing an area evenly as well.

It’s a good deal for you if you need an area cleared, and it’s a good deal for the farmer, who saves on fodder (a growing cost in California in particular thanks to a drought-induced hay shortage) and gets to pocket the rental fee. Plus, it’s good for the environment, because unlike gasoline-powered yard tools, goats don’t produce (much) pollution.

A closeup of the face of a goat with lovely curved horns. But, it turns out, rental goats are good for more than just clearing the backyard or keeping a corporate campus mowed the green way. They’re also chomping through wildfire fuel, which is something that fire management officials and fire-conscious property owners have realized this year.

Goats can clear land quickly, cleanly and easily, so they’re a great choice for fire management. In fact, the demand for rental goats in California is so high that the state is actually facing a shortage, with some operators saying they could easily double their herds and still have trouble meeting demand.

Since goats can’t be magically pulled out of a hat, herders are settling for bringing in goats from out of state and triaging requests from customers eager to get a little goat time. It’s definitely a good time to be a goat in California if you like travel and a varied diet, and it’s a pretty darn good time to be a goatherd, too — makes you reconsider your career, doesn’t it?

Goats standing in an argan tree in Morocco, eating the foliage.

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Photo credits: Kabsik Park, bagsgroove, bagsgroove, and Grand Parc.

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110 comments

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10:22PM PDT on Aug 10, 2014

...Nature has all the answers, if humans were smart, and humble, enough to look.

10:21PM PDT on Aug 10, 2014

This is a great story! I'd love to raise goats for non-meat/milk purpose. You gotta love goats

5:40PM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Managers of Weedwackers Inc. lining up for a company photo

5:42PM PDT on Jun 15, 2014

I hope that whoever rents these wonderful goats treats them with kindness and not like lawnmowers or weedwackers. They are not machines.
I am a goat lover!

1:05PM PDT on Jun 12, 2014

Finally, an intelligent idea on the ridding of brush. Before it has always been "small" fires to clear the brush which ALWAYS get out of control. If there is enough edible forage for them they should work and get fat and happy. Finally, a humane decision.

2:21AM PDT on Jun 11, 2014

I'm sure these goats can teach the goats who supposedly look after the country a thing or two about doing it properly.

5:15PM PDT on Jun 9, 2014

I love goats.....and they will literally eat their pay.......but give them some extra love if you can, too...

7:12AM PDT on Jun 9, 2014

Fantastic animals.
Thanks.

6:01AM PDT on Jun 7, 2014

What a great idea to use goats for this cause!

4:08PM PDT on Jun 6, 2014

This is an amazing story and something I would never have guessed.
Imagine, 'rented goats'.

Every time I read a story like this, it continually, improves my attitude about our animal cousins. With every extinction, we must wonder how many natural remedies have been lost to our planet.

We have acted very foolishly, in this respect.

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