If you drive down A Street near I-80, you’ve probably noticed the herd of goats grazing the alfalfa field. Dixon Patch received several inquiries as to their presence, so we caught up with the local owners who say they’ve been employing goats as weed eaters for more than 20-years.
EcoSytem Concepts Inc. (ECI) — owned and operated by Brea McGrew, a Dixon-based veterinarian, and her husband, retired firemen Robert McGrew —provides vegetation management services to public agencies and local farmers using animals as a natural method of removing undesirable plants.
Working with fire agencies, municipalities, and landowners to implement fire fuel reduction programs in places like the Oakland hills, and in Dixon for weed and crop residue removal, the company is reducing pollution one project at a time.
“By eating the alfalfa down with goats, they remove broadleaf weeds, and reduce old crop residue when it grows back in the spring, thereby making a higher quality first crop cutting” explained ECI owners, “They also aerate the soil and fertilize the crop naturally, eliminating the need for chemicals.”
On hillsides throughout Northern California, the goats manage invasive plant growth and prevent regrowth of weed plants by stripping the bark of coyote and poison oak plants, even devouring entire blackberry bushes, all the while reducing fire dangers by reaching up to six-feet into low-hanging fire-fueling trees and brush.
So, why goats?
“We started working with sheep more than 20-years ago, and had one of the last walking trails in the area,” McGrew remembered, “We would walk them from Jess Jones Farm to Allendale with only dogs and people.” However, overtime, the company has moved completely to goat herding.
“Sheep do a great job on the alfalfa fields, however, the goats put out twice as much nitrogen per hundred pounds of dry mater than sheep, resulting in less soil compaction because of body weight and shape of hooves.”
The company’s natural approach to vegetation management enhances wildlife habitat with their ability to selectively avoid protected areas and removes the need for toxic chemical sprays, fuel powered equipment, leaving no pollution behind. Not to mention, they’re pretty fun to look at. Just be careful, the electrically fenced areas are for both the safety of the goats, as well as the community, and if you have a keen eye, you might be able to spot the pair of Great Pyrenees dogs protecting the livestock from predators.
Though the herd may be a nice representation of this farming community next to the Welcome to Dixon sign, don't expect to see them for long, according to ECI, the 1800-goats will have the 80-acres eaten down in less than two weeks.