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Two birds with one goat

Grazing animals on PG&E land serves multiple functions

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It's not a new method, but it's tried and true: goats.

Meat goats grazing on PG&E land keeps the weeds down, which helps minimize fire danger and allows a clear line of site for PG&E officials to see if Osama is creeping through the bushes.

Jeff Lewis, spokesman for PG&E, told the Reuters News Agency that "the goats give us a good firebreak under the transmission lines and we don't have to rely on any insecticides or controlled burns." By trimming the long grass, the goats also make a clear line of sight available for Diablo staff to spot trespassers.

Cayucos rancher Bob Blanchard has had a lease with PG&E for about 10 years to graze his animals. At first it was just his goats that munched the grass on the land near the Diablo Canyon power plant. Now, Blanchard has sheep and cattle that graze the space as well. Blanchard, who owns Old Creek Ranch ( www.oldcreekranch.net ), is one of two ranchers that have a grazing lease for the Diablo Canyon land.

Blanchard said he's especially attentive to the areas around transmission lines. Currently he has a herd of about 700 animals — Boer goats, Spanish meat goats, and sheep, and cattle —

on PG&E land.

Blanchard said the 3,500 acres of PG&E land that his animals graze on is pretty pristine. He regularly sees coyotes and hawks hunting, and he says that cougars inhabit the area as well. Unfortunately, though, this thriving presence of predators presents a threat to Blanchard's animals.


' The goats give us a good firebreak under the transmission lines and we don't have to rely on any insecticides or controlled burns.'

Jeff Lewis, PG&E spokesman


"We have no interest in a lethal form of a predator control," Blanchard said. So he acquired guard dogs that live with the herd and protect them from predators. The seven Akbash dogs have grown close to the herd, Blanchard said.

"The goats have learned to stay in herd and the dogs are closely bonded with the sheep. It's a pretty good situation," he said. "It's pretty interesting. It's been really fascinating."

The use of dogs to protect the herd jibes with Blanchard's approach to farming and ranching. The motto of Old Creek Ranch is "Grown in Harmony with Nature."

Blanchard's experience ranching on the Diablo land is taking him to Texas , where he will participate in a conference hosted by Texas A&M extension services next week. There, he will talk about his experience with ranch lease agreements.

Blanchard laughed about the idea of a guy from California going to Texas to share his ranching experience, but obviously he's onto something. ?

 

Staff Writer John Peabody can be reached at jpeabody@newtimesslo.com.

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