There is no doubt you have seen them lately, goats roaming around and grazing on certain parts of Roseville, Rocklin, or Lincoln. These cities have put into place a comprehensive grazing program in an effort to reduce the use of potentially harmful pesticides and to reduce fire hazards for their residents. Grazing is a cutting edge and biodynamic way of reducing fire hazard and keeping invasive plant species down to a minimum. In a way, this is a “back to the future” sort of approach to managing land.
“We are rediscovering the value of managed grazing with a combination of sheep and goats and we believe that the wave of the future is to go back to the past,” stated Patrick Shea, Executive Director of the Wildlife Heritage Foundation.
Aside from being cute furry creatures, they play an important role in our habitat. Grazing allows the preserve manager a means to maintain the herbaceous cover and biomass within a range that is conducive to the health and long-term persistence of the natural communities that currently exist on the property. In addition, grazing also assists in reducing the fire hazard associated with the mass of dry vegetation that accumulates during the dry summer and fall seasons. Finally, grazing with goats and sheep assists in the management of invasive plant species by reducing weedy populations and inhibiting their spread.
Goats and sheep live together nicely and having them graze property together produces a great outcome. Goats tend to target and eat broad-leaf non-native annuals while sheep target and eat grasses. These plants grow quickly, however, small ruminants (goats and sheep) take them down so they do not have a chance to re-seed. Some plants such as the yellow star thistle have seeds that can be viable for at least ten years. The fact that they are not allowed to go to seed vastly reduces the risk that they will invade the open spaces. The same story is true for the Himalayan blackberry, a non-native, invasive species common our area. Grazing cuts the blackberry down so much that they are not given a chance to grow and spread.
Grazing animals are almost always accompanied by one or more guardian dogs. The dogs are inside the fence with the animals to protect them from predators, most commonly coyotes. Guardian dogs are really cute but they are raised to guard their flock. They don’t necessarily want to socialize with people. Don’t be alarmed if they bark at you until you move away from their flock. They are just doing their job!
WHF reaches out regularly to schools near open spaces that have sheep and goats grazing. We do a presentation for the whole school, including a mini herding demonstration with some herding dogs and goats. Let us know if you have grazing animals near your school and we would be happy to make a visit!