Nearly 100 goats are housed at the Graniterock Company in Santa Cruz, California. The goats, protected from predators by a Pyrenees and Anatolian shepherd dog, are happily gobbling up non-native species of grass as the first step in a project to transform a former sand quarry into native California grassland.
Alex Simons, an environmental specialist for quarry owners Graniterock, envisions a day when California wild oats, purple needlegrass and blue wild rye will wrest the ground from an invasive orchard grass.
When the company closed the sand mine in the late 1990s, the area was seeded with an erosion control mix that included non-native grasses, Simons said. That was best practice at the time but native species are preferred these days.
Graniterock could have mowed the six flat acres surrounded by steep slopes, but Simons said she decided to bring in goats after using them to clear a pond overgrown with tule to improve habitat for red-legged frogs last October.
Ben Long, owner of Livestock Landscape Solutions of La Honda, California said each goat consumes about seven kilograms of grass a day. ?They’ll eat everything?, he said.
Boer goats make up the bulk of the herd, but there are also angora, Nubian, Spanish and kiko goats. Every couple of days, Long moves the portable electric fencing to a new location.
Graniterock marketing director Keith Seversen said the system has enabled the company to meet mine reclamation requirements in an environmentally sensitive way.