Photos and text by Will Sardinsky
Country Road 112 may have seen its most heavily-trafficked day yet. However, the traffic did not come from cars, but from goats. On a recent dewey fall morning, Lani Malmberg and her son, Donny Benz, co-owners of Goat Green LLC, ran 800 goats down the road to load them into trailers that were too big to access the Sutey Ranch Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property. “Some of the challenges are that we never have a set of corrals or load outs we regularly use, because we work in so many places. A lot of the time, we’ll run four to five miles down the highway to be able to get to a spot where we can get the trailers in,” said Benz. “What’s so important for us with the moving is that we don’t slaughter our animals, so they remember how to load into the trailers, load out and that there will be food at the next job. Our goats go back 26 generations, so they are just so well trained.”
The goats were being loaded up to move to another BLM job at the edge of the Grizzly Creek burn. “We were at Sutey Ranch transforming an old cattle ranch back to native habitat for wildlife,” said Malmberg. “Now, in this area, we’re hoping to prevent wildfires like that and also prevent mudslides. Goats stand on their hind legs to eat, so they eat and clear from nine feet up to the ground of the fire-fuel ladder. In the process, they recycle the plant material through their guts,” Malmberg explained. “They can get in really tight areas because they’re smaller-bodied animals with narrow, triangular mouths. I call them ‘the vacuum cleaners’ for land.” Benz added.
Malmberg continued, “Then they stabilize soils on top of the steep terrain with their hooves. Eight-hundred goats is 3,200 hooves, all compacting the soil.”