If you happen to be driving or biking down Horton and spot a herd of goats in Emeryville of all places, you’re not seeing things. The goats have been employed to remove the vegetation while the remediated Sherwin-Williams parcel awaits development. Overgrowth can be problematic and even a fire hazard during summer months (especially during a drought!). “We have almost 8.5 acres inside our fence. I felt this would be a low-impact option for control” noted Sherwin Property Environmental Project Manager Larry Mencin who first inquired about the option with the city. Mencin called City Grazing who specialize in using goats for this type of urban brush clearing.
City Grazing has been in business for eight years and has about five employees (not including the goats of course ;). General Manager Genevieve Church described the permitting process as fairly effortless. “The City was a bit cautious because they’ve never issued a permit for goats before but were extremely cooperative. They asked standard questions about safety, noise and security. Goats can be a bit opportunistic, so having a secure perimeter is important and the Sherwin property was well fortified.” noting they did a sweep of the fence line to patch any broken chain links. If the perimeter is not secure, electrified fence needs to be installed which can drive up the cost significantly.
The use of goats to remove brush is competitive with “traditional” methods of clearing but offer the benefit of fertilizing the top soil. No composting is required and the nutrients return straight back to the earth. Using them avoids loud gasoline-powered equipment, toxic herbicides and there’s no need to haul away the brush afterward. They’re also very agile and can get to spots that humans and machinery can’t.
“Goats are not picky eaters and have a high need for copper and selenium in their diet according to our vets at U.C. Davis” noted Church. “This is present in the most common types of vegetation which include pampas grass, Ivy & Blackberry leaves”. Goats can even clear Poison Oak which Church compared to being like Tabasco sauce to them. “It’s good to mix it in but you wouldn’t want them to eat it exclusively the way a person wouldn’t want to chug hot sauce straight out of the bottle!” The most common plant within California that can be toxic to goats is oleander but there are others and scouting the property for these is part of the estimate.
While City Gazing strongly discourages feeding the goats (goats should not eat any “human” food and are sensitive to food with a high sugar content), they do encourage interacting with them. Since they are predominantly used in urban environments, some level of socialization is necessary. “They’re all individuals. Some are curious, some are shy. We encourage people to stop by and check them out”. Keep in mind that they do have a job to do so they should not be discouraged from “working”. Church also wanted to emphasize the need to leash dogs in the area, mainly for the safety of the dogs. She noted that most dogs are curious but cautious with the exception of Poodles “For some reason Poodles can be very aggressive toward them!” The goats are also great with children and are ambassadors for animal husbandry and ecological stewardship of industrial land.
The forty or so mixed-breed goats were brought in by truck on May 15th and should be here for another week or so but may be lifted if they finish early. Their next “assignment” will be near the Presidio in SF. While they are not out on the job, the herd lives on a pasture in San Francisco’s Bayview district. City Grazing also has goats available for backyard grazing, parties, educational visits, acting roles, documentaries, and other special events and are available to answer any inquiries.
More info on City Grazing:
Contact: Genevieve Church – (415) 641-7172