Goats in the Hills

By Carolyn Burgess and Brenda Roberts

Living in the Oakland hills we have become used to seeing the goat herds on the hillsides during springtime, ‘mowing down’ the grasses and weeds, which are a big part to management the vegetation in hard to reach hillsides for fire prevention.  We interviewed two of the goat herders, Alberto, and Fisher, to find out more about goat herding.  Our interview was conducted with the assistance of interpreter, Jose Perez.

Question:  Where are these goats from?

There are several companies that are hired by Oakland to graze.  Our herd is from Dixon.

Question:  How long have you been goat herding? 

We are contracted from Peru and are on a H2A work/visa.  Alberto has been here for 2 to 3 years, under a contract; Fisher just arrived one month ago.  Their families are in Peru.

Alberto and ‘Blondie’ – Oakland Hills – June 2021.

Question:  Where will you be taking the goats next? 

Joaquin Miller Park and later to the Zoo area.

Question:  How many goats are in this herd?  450.

Question:  How many dogs do you use?

Three dogs.  Two Australian sheep dogs, Cathy and Cruz are used for herding.  And, a Great Pyrenees, for guarding against predators. He is all white named Blondie, (yes, a male).

Question:  Do the goats ever get sick? 

Not very often since their systems are resilient.  But if they eat poisonous foliage like Oleander, Honeysuckle and Japanese Yew they might get sick.  When that happens, we take them back to Dixon.

Question:  What is the greatest challenge in your job? 

Because of the hills, securing the fences on the hillside to stay upright, since the goats will test the wire.  We use 4000-5000 electric voltage on the wire to keep the goats in and the predators out.  We see more predators around the Zoo area.

Cathy and Cruz, goat herding dogs. Oakland Hills – June 2021

Question:  What happens if goats get out? 

Cathy and Cruz will find them and hold the goats, and then bring them back to the herd.

Question:  How many acres can one goat herd clear in a day.    An acre.

Question:  How long will the goats be kept in the Oakland Hills?    

It depends on the amount of grasses.

Question:  Do you have any advice for people who enjoy watching the goats? 

Do not feed them.  Stay clear of the wire!



Fun Facts about Goats!

  • Kids (baby goats) are commonly born as twins.
  • Goats have rectangular eye pupils. This allows them to have a wider range of vision than humans and other animals.
  • Goats are not grazers; but are browsers or foragers.
  • Goats do not have upper front teeth. They have a strong, hard dental pad that helps them break down food.
  • Both male and female goats have beards.

And About the Dogs…

There are guardian dogs and herding dogs.

The guardian dog bonds with the goat herd and instinctively protects the goats against intruders.  It is often just enough for the guardian dog to be within the herd to ward off predators.  This dog works constantly and oftentimes blends in with the herd until he detects trouble. And then, he will display loud barking and aggressive behavior – even stage an attack against a predator in order to protect the goats.

The herding dog comes into action when a goat escapes the fencing or pens.  Two or more will work as a team to ‘round up’ the goat and bring it back to the herd.  And, every time the goats are moved from one hilly area to another, these herding dogs are the key muscle to move the herd together and towards the trucks used to haul the goats to the next hillside.

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