In an effort to be more environmentally friendly, the city of Sunnyvale has turned to an unlikely source for its lawn mowing needs. Goats.
This year, the city hired Goats R Us to help keep up with vegetation management at the Sunnyvale Landfill on Caribbean Drive.
In early February, Goats R Us delivered about 1,100 goats to the area. For about five weeks, the goats grazed under the watchful eye of a herder and his dog. They were allowed to move around in their defined space and eat down the vegetation. When the five weeks were up, the goats had cleared more than 100 acres of land.
Terri Oyarzun, who owns Goats R Us with her husband Egon, says this job was made for the goats.
“God designed them to do this. They eat undesirable plants. They eat thistle berry, poison oak, coyote brush. All the obnoxious things that people want to get rid of,” said Oyarzun. “They also are a good source of fertilizer, going along on their daily duties, shall we say?”
“They’re kind of a perfect size when you need to limb up your trees,” continued Oyarzun. “The bigger goats can reach up to about six feet, so they kind of have read the specs of the fire marshal’s fuel mitigation safety clearance and they can make that happen.”
The goats are corralled by an electric net fence and moved along through the designated grazing space by a herder. They start at one end and then move down to the other end. The herder stays with the herd the entire time and lives on a trailer on the land.
Goats R Us has operated in the Bay Area for 29 years. Currently, the company owns about 10,000 goats that they both breed and rescue. Once they’re too old to graze regularly, the goats are retired.
“We keep our goats for the entirety of their lives,” said Oyarzun. “So, we have a retirement herd and sometimes they go out to retirement communities. Usually, they stay home, but you know sometimes…”
The company operates out of Briones in the East Bay, but Oyarzun says California’s fire season often keeps the goats away from home.
“As of probably, about two years ago, the state of California declared fire season to be a year-round activity,” said Oyarzun. “So, we are certainly busier, April through October… that’s when [the goats] get the most attention and visibility as people are busy trying to avoid any sort of a fire event. They sort of go at it in different levels throughout the entire year.”
While Oyarzun and her husband Egon continue to work within the business, they’re slowly working toward retirement and handing the business over to their son Zephyr.
“We start [the business] because we liked it and it was a great thing. It was a win-win-win,” said Oyarzun. “We enjoy the work. We enjoyed the customers. They enjoyed the process. It provided a green solution to a constant issue of vegetation management. We always felt that it was a big win-win-win and that was great.”
“We’re very fortunate that our youngest son is now running the company. [Zephyr] does a great job,” said Oyarzun. “We’re older and it is a physical job. [We’re] very blessed that he decided he would jump in, take over the company. He does a great job. So, it’s definitely a family affair.”
Sunnyvale typically brings in the goats about twice a year to keep vegetation in the landfill at bay. Another round of “lambscaping” should take place in June.