A herd/flock of 600 goats and sheep have been hard at work, eating down the dry grasses and shrubs to maintain the fuel break around the Silverado Community. Just who are these workers? We asked the contracted grazing company, Napa Pasture Protein’s Cori Carlson to tell us more about their enthusiastic crew, and she shared the following:
The herds at Silverado are a mixed group of Boer goats and Dorper Sheep. The Boer goats are selected for their hardiness and relatively large appetites. They are excellent browsers that prefer nibbling up the Oak varieties, Coyote Brush, and vanquishing the Poison Oak plants. The Dorper sheep are selected for similar reasons in addition to the fact that they are perfect for our arid climate. They shed their wool at about a year of age, maintaining a bit down the topline. They look like they had a bad haircut at times, but that protects them from the sun.
This breed originates from a South African Breed that was bred for similar climate and needs. This shorn appearance helps them with the stickers, foxtails, and brushy topography. The sheep prefer the lower growing flora, especially Star Thistle and Purple Vetch. The combination of these two powerhouse grazers has resulted in grazing at a rate of 2-4 acres per day for a current total of 79 acres. One of the added benefits to using grazing animals is that they create natural mini fire breaks, called trailings, from the paths they create with their parading back and forth across the hillsides.
The combined effect of fuel reduction, canopy lifting, and trailing is what makes them such a great tool for managing our California landscapes. A longer-term effect is that the grazing stimulates the root systems of the plants to grow deeper, this in turn sequesters greater amounts of carbon, something we can all appreciate for years to come. They are very grateful to all the gracious homeowners that have supported the project with water along the way.
Providing water was just one of many logistics that needed to be managed. The Silverado Fire Safe Council did an outstanding job of getting signed landowner agreements, helping to plan, and raising funds to help pay for this important project.