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Goats and sheep used to help prevent Utah wildfires

Posted at 5:58 PM, Aug 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 19:58:03-04

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — Basin Recreation is employing goats and sheep to help prevent fires.

The company, 4 Leaf Ranch, brought over 300 animals to the field – some sheep, one male goat and mainly female goats. Cover says the female goats can eat about 5-7 pounds of grass per day, and the male eats about 10 pounds.

“Our hope with the goats being out here is they’ll help control the weeds, help keep those down,” said Matthew Benge, Open Space Supervisor with Basin Recreation in Summit County. They have goats grazing on the 66-acre property over the next few weeks.

The goats also help reduce the chance of wildfires by taking out the dry grass that could light up.

This method, employed by Basin Recreation for three years now, is a natural way to get rid of weeds, while protecting the nutrients in the soil, and help give the native species a fighting chance at growing.

“Chemical companies that spray the herbicides, they put a carbon imprint on the environment between birds, bees. There’s no carbon imprint, there’s no methane, and it’s a weed-free fertilizer when they’re done,” said Greg Cover, owner and operator of 4 Leaf Ranch. He has been working with goats for over 2 decades.

He adds that goats are the ideal choice for this task because they are robust and tough animals with unique bodies that help enrich the soil.

“So, goats have 4 compartments in their belly, and they don’t re-seed in their poop,” said Cover. That means they digest even the seeds of the weeds completely, so they won’t grow back from the manure left behind.

But some neighbors say keeping the goats in one area for too long in the meadow can cause problems for people who live nearby.

“The goats have been coming in for the past couple of years and there’s some good science behind it as far as fire control and week control, but for the people who live here, they go through and they eat everything to the bone and climb the trees and eat the trees and what we’re left with is a dustbowl for the rest of the summer,” said Matt Lindon who lives in silver springs in Snyderville.

That’s why Cover says they try to rotate the areas the goats graze in.

“We’re going to get it (vegetation) down to 30-50%, we’re going to target them weeds first and then let them graze down and then move them.”

Matthew Benge with Basin Recreation adds that they hope they can learn from this kind of project and expand it to other areas as well.

“At least try to get as good of an idea as we can, how effective this is and if this is something that we want to continue in the future, in other areas that are more fire prone.”