SJ’s Latest Cool Kid Trend: Grass Eating Goat Watching

Eating goats go on display again

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San Jose has its own unique style. It has a nightlife vibe different than San Francisco or Oakland. The Bay Area's largest city and its whacky kids are always looking for new cool things to do and the latest trend maybe the zaniest hip thing to come alpng in awhile.

San Jose's four-footed landscaping fleet is back and growing, and  residents can view sheep and goats as they munch away weeds and unwanted vegetation around the city's water pollution control plant. Sweet! These are not super powered goats or finger eating sheep. But they are interesting to see none-the-less. For real.
 
This is the third year San Jose has turned to barnyard animals to  help maintain public lands without the use of gas-powered mowers, or  herbicides that can drain into area waterways. This year, Dorper sheep and  Boer, Kiko and Spanish breeds of goat will tackle the 400 acres surrounding  the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant, as well as parks and  lands across the city. Last year, animals grazed on just 67 acres of public  land, according to San Jose environmental services specialist Matt Weber.

Currently, 600 animals are dining on vegetation by the plant.  Weber said that number will soon double to a total of 100 goats and 1,100  sheep.

"More are arriving tomorrow," he said. "They're on the road  tonight."

The flock is multiplying in other ways as well. Weber said 80 new  lambs or kids have been born since the animals arrived the week of February  16. Another 50 babies are on the way, a development Weber said the city  anticipated.

"It's a natural process," he said. "It's what animals do."

The lambs and kids begin grazing at two weeks old, Weber said,  learning the land's vegetation from their mothers.

The extra staff and veterinarian who will be on hand for the  lambing and kidding do not incur extra costs to the city, he said.

Grazing is a sustainable, yet costly approach to landscape  maintenance. The animals come from San Francisco-based Living Systems Land  Management. The process costs $87 per acre, Weber said. Traditional  landscaping costs vary by terrain, but this number is 45 percent more than  the costs at the water pollution control plant, he said.

Goats can consume challenging invasive, unpleasant species like  thistle and poison oak, to encourage native grass growth. In later months,  the herd will consume dry vegetation, which helps decrease fire risks, Weber  said.

Several "on-site grazing managers," or shepherds, are with the  animals 24 hours a day.

The city expects the goats and sheep will be dining on these  lands, as well as city parks and other properties, for about a year. The past  two years, the animals made only short-term visits.

Currently the flock is visible in large numbers from Zanker Road,  a spokeswoman said, as drivers head towards the plant and the Don Edwards San  Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Visitors are encouraged, Weber said, and grazing managers are  happy to answer questions if they are available.

On March 25, a portion of the flock will relocate to the Guadalupe  River Park Gardens orchard. Weber said this three-acre locale will offer  "much more of an up-close encounter."

While some animals will stay at the plant all year, others will  rotate around to Alum Rock Park, the municipal water reservoir in Evergreen  and other city properties.

"By far this is the most bizarre, unique and fun project I get to  work on," Weber said.

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