An effort to reduce the risk of fires in Madras begins with goats.
A flock of 150 goats was set loose on a parcel of land near the Willow Creek trailhead Wednesday.
“They let them out of the trailer. They went to work right away. Unlike my kids they went to town,” said Mike Lapin, Madras Mayor. “It’s kind of interesting watching them. The owner described how they are running around finding the good stuff first. Kind of like how you eat your ice cream before your dinner.”
Hiring goats to mow down overgrown fields and brushy banks of Willow Creek is a cooperative effort by the City of Madras, Jefferson County, the Oregon Department of Forestry, the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council and the local fire department.
“On the other side of the road, I have my crews training. They are doing some saw work and clean up of ladder fuels, sagebrush and juniper trees,” said Jeff Blake, Chief of Jefferson County Fire and EMS. “COIC is going to come in with their crews the first part of April. They are going to do the bulk of the work as far as tree trimming, getting rid of dead sagebrush. Then they’ll chip all the material that we cut.”
The weed munching flock consists of goats and sheep.
The sheep eat the low grasses, while the goats specialize in the taller scrub bushes including juniper, proving that they will eat pretty much anything.
They are contained inside an electric fence, guarded by a Great Pyrenees dog and supervised 24 hours a day by a human goat herder.
“I think they are great,” said Michele Quinn, Public Works Office Coordinator. “They are cute. They went to work right away. They are not complaining. I think they are going to do a good job. I really hope that it works. If it does work, Scott (Martin, owner of Martin Boer Goats) might have a lot more people asking him for his goats.”
Goats eat an average of 14 hours a day.
The average goats eats about 2-3 pounds of vegetation per day.
That’s 300 to 400 pounds of brush the flock will consume each day.