While driving around Colorado last weekend, I saw several goat herds grazing on the hillside. These fascinating animals are a valuable part of the state’s fire mitigation efforts, and I was happy to see them working to clear the land.
Forest fires are an enormous threat to the Western States. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 63 large fires have burned 3.1 million acres in the United States this year alone.
In Colorado, the risk of wildfire is ever-present. In 2013, the Black Forest Fire roared through my community, and it was terrifying to see flames engulfing the city. We need all the support we can get in our fire fighting efforts, and goats are part of the solution.
Goats have been used for decades to help with wildfire mitigation. They are browsers, not grazers like cattle and sheep, and prefer to reach up and eat the leaves on trees or shrubs. A herd of goats can quickly clear out dry vegetation that provides fuel for a fire. Without fuel, a fire won’t grow.
Solar Powered Weed Eater
In addition to eating high-growing vegetation, goats also love to munch on weeds, including poisonous ones that can be dangerous to grazing animals. Goats are an environmentally friendly alternative to harmful pesticides. They prefer weeds to grass, so when you transport them to an area rich in weeds, they are in culinary heaven.
While the goats are walking around munching on vegetation, their hooves help to aerate the ground which allows oxygen and nutrients to penetrate the soil. Additionally, a goat’s waste products provide fertilizer. They clear out unhelpful vegetation while aerating and fertilizing the soil, which helps return the land to its natural, healthy state.
This multi-purpose animal can reduce fire risk and beautify the land by doing what it loves — eating!
Goats For Hire
A 2021 article in Angi (formerly Angie’s List) states that three goats can clear one acre of land in about three weeks. It will cost you between $400-$800, but imagine what it could save you. I have done plenty of fire mitigation on my property in Colorado, and it is hard work. Now that most of my kids are grown and flown, I might have to rent a goat.
If you want to hire goats to work on your land, Lani Malmberg of Goat Green, LLC has over 1500 cashmere goats available to help you out. These goats are deployed all over the Western States. According to her website, Lani’s goats work for approximately 12 years and then they retire to a ranch in Wyoming to live out their remaining life in a peaceful environment. A well-deserved rest after doing an important job!
While full-grown goats are working the land, baby goats (kids)have an exciting role as yoga companions. Yoga is a well-known stress reliever — mix in a baby goat as your partner, and you will likely feel better in no time.
Animal-assisted therapy is a growing field. Research shows that spending time with dogs, cats, horses, and birds is beneficial to our health. Although I couldn’t find any specific research on goat therapy, I know I would feel less stressed after a session with a baby goat.
Of course, there are a few challenges to doing yoga with this animal. They will probably go to the bathroom on your mat and likely nibble on your clothing and hair because they are curious critters, but that adds to the fun.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Herd
As much as I would love to have a goat help me with yard work, I live in a city and cannot keep one in my backyard. So, “my” herd lives at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. This friendly crew, all named after different types of cheese, loves to visit with everyone. They especially like spending time with you if you have a handful of feed pellets.
Two of my favorite goats are Brie and Muenster who are pictured above. If you are interested in adopting one of these deserving creatures, you can find more information here.
Animals are an integral part of a healthy environment, and goats are no exception. They wear multiple hats such as fire mitigator, weed eater, and yoga companion. The next time you pass a herd of goats working the land, don’t forget to thank them for all their efforts!