Goats for Fuels Treatments


We have been talking about “everything isn’t forest”. So it’s interesting to think about other fuels management techniques and tools. Because I do think we have to keep in focus that 1) some places do have timber industry.. but they might not be able to handle the scope of all the fuels treatments needed,
2) some places don’t have timber industry and
3) some places don’t have trees, or at least, currently merchantable kinds of trees.

Here is an articles in JSFP News on Karen Voth’s work on using goats in the WUI.

Below is an excerpt:

Voth adds, “The goats protect houses, and they easily provide firefighters a safe place to fight the fires from. The goats
can help make it safer for the firefighters and for communities.”

To that end, she reports on an initial project joining goats with an at-risk community of homes nestled in the heart of fire-prone Utah. The Woodland Hills community is surrounded by oakbrush and scrub. Once Voth explained to community members the possible power
of goats to reduce fire danger, they applauded the plan. Voth
coordinated with the town council and their fire department
and soon a herd of 30 goats were heartily tending vegetation
near the homes. Community members helped build the
fencing, took care of basic goat maintenance like watering,
and learned what the vegetation would look like when the
goats were “finished” in an enclosure. That’s when they
would call Voth and her team, who would drive the three
hours to move the goats.

Here’s a link for more information, also check out her work on Cows Eat Weeds.

7 thoughts on “Goats for Fuels Treatments”

  1. Fun article! We kept a bunch of goats for a while..I sort of had a love/hate relationship with them. Ultimately the demands of two young kinds out competed the attention the goats needed. I miss the fresh goatmilk cheese though! We used them for weed/vegetaion control on our property and boy-howdy they’ll do a number alright! It’ll look like the place was hit with agent orange if you confine them long enough, as you can see in the pictures in the sciene brief.

    Prescription grazing has many benefits for weed and fuel reduction, although from what I understand (after working with some local producers, my own experiences and following a few local studies), there is an economy of scale type tradeoffs that can make it problematic. Larger commercial producers need a certain amount of weight gain to make it a profitable endeavour, but to get the desired benefits (particularly with weed control) the goats need to be confined past the optimum rotation point. Here’s a local study, there’s tons more on the internet:


    For the hobby owner, they’re a lot of work which can be fun, rewarding and/or make you wanna pull your hair out. Once they eat all weeds and or brush, they need to be fed quality hay/alfalfa, to which the costs add up. They aren’t as maintenance free as people may think. Hay storage, winter housing/shelter, and fencing…ugh….the fencing. Persistant little buggers can Houdini themselves into/out of just about everything I threw at them if they’re hungry. Luckily our Lilacs are growing back!

    • I was kind of thinking that the business model was paying goat owners to graze in the WUI, and that supply and demand would set a price. If some goat owners charged less because they were selling the milk and meat..

      Or for feds it could work like personal use firewood on FS is OK to cut near your home, there could be permits for “personal use” goat grazing near subdivisions…

      Also some of the brushy country in the SW and California near subdivisions don’t really require “winter” housing and shelter in the same they would in Colorado or points north. Oh whoops, I guess it’s been done…


  2. The best thing the Brits did for forest cover on Crete was kicking the goats out., sure made a difference. Lets say that they usually look like the devil’s younger brother. Geez, do they slaughter the veg here in E. Africa. I am astonished that they can thrive in areas with little to eat. I eat mbuzi most days of the week here to try to keep a check on them.

    But goat herding is not a lifestyle that appeals to many people, they have to bring up sheepherders from Peru now.

  3. I have a friend with a herd of 500 in the oak hills E of Eugene, she had to bring in a New Zealand breed that can winter outside with little care, apparently local breeds do not do so well. It is a fenced property so little care needed.

    • Thirty years ago I wrote an article for the Associated Reforestation Contractors Quarterly about the US Forest Service using sheep to clear competing vegetation in young conifer plantations. It was titled “The Forest Service takes a ewe turn.” Lack of qualified shepherds was a big stumbling block at that time, and I think the trials were stopped within a few years, in part for that reason.

      My organization was based in Eddyville, Oregon, which had touted itself as “the mohair capital of the world” in the 1920s, when an estimated 30,000 goats were being raised in the vicinity. Then Ford switched from mohair seat covers to rayon and the mohair market mostly disappeared. Goats escaped or were abandoned as a result, and 50 years later they were still being trapped and hunted because of the damage they were doing to crops and landscaping. I think the last of them were hunted down in the mid-1980s, but they had established the fact that they could survive on their own as wild populations in the Oregon Coast Range.

      It’s interesting that shepherds are being hired from Peru these days. When I was growing up I think most of the shepherds in Oregon were Basque — brought in from Spain precisely because of their shepherding skills.

  4. yes, i remember when the SIuslaw was using sheep but they had to bring in a mountain breed from CA since the willamette valley sheep do not do well on those slopes. Not a lot of herds like that out there.

  5. Here’s another article about fire management that Kathy Voth just posted on one of her blogs, “On Pasture.” AS background, Kathy was the Fire Information Officer during the Storm King fire 19 years ago that killed 14 wildland fire fighters. That experience, together with her more recent work to reduce fire fuels, allows her to offer a perspective of few others. This new post seems to raise some questions that folks on this blog might want to digest and discuss.

    LINK: http://onpasture.com/2013/07/08/how-should-we-fight-fire/


Leave a Comment

Discover more from The Smokey Wire : National Forest News and Views

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading