It was a bit of a throwback to the old days of Irvine when, according to the city’s website, sheep used to graze the pastures and open spaces. “The Irvine, Flint and Bixby ranches were devoted to sheep grazing,” the history page on the website records.
On this day, however, it was goats that could be found in Irvine–in fact, on the grounds of Irvine City Hall. As part of a Feb. 25 educational exhibit that featured a green initiative championed by Mayor Christina Shea, the goats were on hand to show visitors how the city is using them for fire prevention and weed management and abatement.
“The mayor is very active in the non-herbicide movement,” said Linda Ivanov, marketing director for Sage Environmental Group, the organization that leases its goat herds to those seeking a greener way to maintain the land.
But don’t call them “grazing” goats. Ivanov says they are actually “browsing” goats.
“Sheep and cattle graze,” she says. “Goats browse.” And in doing so, Ivanov says that 100 goats can eat an acre a day.
“The goats jump up on a branch or bush and use their hooves and body to push it to the ground,” Ivanov says. Then they chomp away, sometimes consuming as much as 10 pounds of vegetation a day.
The Sierra Club reports on its website that the Ventura County Fire Department employed goats at a cost of $935 per acre to create fire breaks near Ojai and the Reagan Presidential Library, which were threatened by wildfires last October. The demand for hungry goats is growing, the site says.
Last year a 100- to 200-goat herd was brought to Irvine, near the Turtle Rock area, to get to work.
“We use an electric mesh fence about three feet high to contain them,” Ivanov explained. “We set up a perimeter, provided food and shelter and guard dogs to protect them.”
They did their job in Turtle Rock, Ivanov said. “These guys love the mustard grass.”
Beginning in late March a herd will grace the Bommer Canyon area as part of the city’s ongoing efforts to maintain the land without herbicides and to prevent fires by mowing down fuel. The cost, says Ivanov, is about $650 to $850 per acre, with added fees for set up and maintenance. “It depends on the condition of the site,” Ivanov says, and the desired outcome.