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The Goat Alternative

blog goatsGraniterock uses goat grazing as a way to rehabilitate the environment and manage weeds

Graniterock, a Watsonville-based company that produces and distributes construction aggregates and supplies, has turned to a unique approach for habitat enhancement and weed management: goats.

Since September 2012, Graniterock has used goats for grazing at the Santa Cruz Sand Plant, located up Highway 1 across from the entrance of Wilder Ranch State Park. These goats have been grazing on tule grass for pond management, enabling a better breeding and living habitat for the endangered California Red-Legged Frog.

Alex Simmons, environmental specialist at Graniterock, developed the idea for using grazing goats as an alternative to weed management machinery. Simmons was looking at the equipment usage and wanted to find a low-cost alternative that was also nature-friendly.

"As a company, it’s important that we increase our environmental awareness," says Simmons. "We were looking for an opportunity to stray away from using equipment and herbicides and using a more holistic way."

According to Simmons, goats are not particular about what they eat, and can even stomach poison oak. Goats are also smaller than cattle, making them an ideal candidate for grazing jobs.

The goal for the grazing is to rid of non-native grasses in the area. Multiple factors played into the decision to pursue this project, such as the animal’s impact, area to be grazed, and how many animals would be needed. Weather patterns were another crucial point to be considered, as the timing of the grazing project would ideally target certain grasses to be grazed before they can produce and spread their seed.

The goat-grazing project was ultimately deemed the most cost-efficient way to reduce impact and machinery use for land rehabilitation. More than six months after implementing the goats, Graniterock is satisfied with the results.

"There’s been a disturbance through the coast, and we want to replicate those conditions and natural surroundings," says Simmons. "Goats are a good way to do just that. We want the process to be as natural as possible, and we want to be a leading company to do so."

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