EL DORADO COUNTY - As California enters what could be the worst fire season on record, rented goats are helping rural homeowners make their property fire safe.
"Goats are just one tool in the toolbox of vegetation management," said Roy Austin, who keeps a herd of 300 kiko goats and rents them out through his company Goat Central.
Each goat eats roughly 10 pounds of vegetation per day, Austin said. If kept in a confined area, they will clear even stubborn brush down to bare dirt.
Darlene Ott lives on five acres of rugged terrain and hired 40 of Austin's goats after learning they would clear her property of poison oak, which she said has been especially thick this season.
"I've never been able to see through my trees before," Ott said, marveling at the new clearing below her house created by grazing goats.
Austin charges between $1,000 and $4,000 per acre, depending on the amount of labor involved in preparing the land and the length of time the goats will be needed.
He admits they're not the most economical solution in all cases, but are ideal for rugged terrain.
"Goats will go where equipment and mowers cannot," Austin said.