In addition to its tracks and stations, BART has over 100 acres of land to manage — and that translates to a major headache in terms of mowing grass and cutting back overgrown vegetation when fire season hits.
Enter a herd of around 700 goats, who go about the business of grazing about one acre per day during the early and late-summer months across BART's right-of-way properties — many of which get covered in overgrown grasses and brush.
"We put the goats in a small area and do what we call a mob graze," says herd owner Jan Canady in a BART news release. "With a power weed eater, you're just cutting it down, but you have to worry about erosion, because the root is still there. The goats, they're constantly eating wherever they're needed, everything, until you move them somewhere else."
The use of goats to do this job goes back several years, and BART says it typically contracts with the Canadys' Coalinga-based goat business between May and June, and between September and October — though the goats were still out there this week.
The goats both allow BART to cut back on the use of fossil fuel-based equipment and to avoid using equipment that could spark fires. And they graze about 35 out of BART's 100+ acres.
"This is the smartest way for us to deal with the vegetation in these areas," says Josh Soltero, an irrigation/grounds worker for BART.
And, he adds, "The goats can get into places we can't. They save a lot of shoulders and backs."
"Goats are active and explorative eaters, often climbing trees in pursuit of food and nutrition," says Jared A. Lewis, Natural Resource Program Manager/Outreach Director for the Canadys' company, Living Systems Land Management. "This propensity towards variety coupled with an uncanny ability to consume unlikely feedstuffs such as low lying branches, small trees, grasses, weeds, chapparal, shrubs and a panoply of fire-hazardous exotic and invasive species, creates the unlikely but nonetheless perfectly suited fire-fighting tool in the goat."
BART says it provides water for the herd — which can drink up to 300 gallons per day — and provides 24/7 herding and oversight.
Look out for the goats when you're on BART one of these days, while they're still out there.