Herd of goats to chomp down on wildfire risk at Cuyamaca College

EL CAJON – Cuyamaca College is bringing back its star, four-legged staff members to take on an important task again this fall: eat their way across campus.

A herd of goats began their assignment in September, and will conclude this fall. The goats are grazing on dry, overgrown plants, grasses and brush on the leafy, 165-acre campus. The 200 animals, known as brushing goats, are part of an effort to cut down on fire fuels at the college, in a way that is quite cost effective.

The herd of goats, which includes mostly females and their kids, as well as neutered males, are completing a 6-8 week assignment at the college. Along with human crews, the animals will clear about 50 acres.

Interim Cuyamaca President Jessica Robinson said the goats are particularly effective because of their taste for invasive, non-native plants. 

“Goats are not native to North America, and so they prefer to eat non-native plants that have infiltrated areas around campus,” Robinson said. “This is the second time we’ve used goats to accomplish this work, and we know the community enjoys watching them work.”

As in the past, Cuyamaca College hired Environmental Land Management (ELM), a San Diego company that provides the goats for controlling brush, creating fire breaks, and clearing land. Another reason why the agile animals are ideal for such work is because they can traverse nearly any kind of terrain, including land that is often impossible to reach for people and mechanized equipment. They’re also much quieter.

Brushing goats are able to navigate uneven terrain, stand on two legs to reach tall brush, and not compact soil as they walk on it. They are also able to endure warm temperatures in East County. With open spaces cleared of overgrowth, the college also will be protected by naturally open fire breaks.

The goats are being deployed in accordance with all local, regional, and state requirements. As they work, the animals are being contained within a low-voltage, state-regulated electric fence. At the end of their workday, the goats retire for the evening to a paddock, which moves as they move throughout the campus. The paddock is protected by dogs, and contract personnel watch over the animals 24 hours a day. Those interested in learning more about the goats and their assignment can send an email to: Community.Cuyamaca@gcccd.edu.

For information about the college district, go to www.gcccd.edu.