A lot has changed over the last few years at the Everson Ranch. The hay fields have been restored and improved. A strawbale bathhouse was built for ranch volunteers and interns. New fences put up, old ones taken out and a gated irrigation pipe system installed to keep it all going. Along with these changes, the ranch animals have been brought back! Nancy Roberts, owner of Arrowpoint Beef, runs her Scottish Highland cattle here. We have a variety of chickens, a heritage breed of pigs called Large Blacks, and a llama to watch over them.
The newest addition to our animal family is a small herd of Boer goats that has just expanded by NINE NEW BABIES, "kids". Boer goats were developed in South Africa for their meat, hardiness and brush control abilities. The term "Boer" refers to the descendants of the Dutch immigrants, or Boers, most of them farmers, who settled the country; thus, "Boer" goat simply means "farmer's" goat.
Our intention for having goats on the ranch is mainly for weed control . Technically, goats don't graze; they browse. They'll eat brush, leaves, twigs, and other such food first, only turning to grass when there's nothing else left. Goats also don't munch each plant down to a nub and move on. They'll pick off the flower heads so the plant can't go to seed, and eat the leaves so it can't photosynthesize. But they'll leave the stalk, which holds the soil in place, preventing erosion. With only a bare stem left, the plant has to work overtime just to stay alive, giving native or more desirable plants a chance to grow. Goats also poop a lot, and as they roam, their tough hooves stomp the pellets into the soil, fertilizing and helping to soften the ground. They also irrigate, a pint at a time, with nitrogen-tinged urine that helps balance the minerals in the soil. And, notably, they'll eat just about anything, including plants that are poisonous to other animals.
Hopefully our goats will prove to be a valuable tool in our goal for pasture restoration. Please schedule a ranch tour on your next visit to OLT and visit our cute, curious and cuddly baby goats. You will also learn about their mothers and all of the other amazing things happening at Everson!
By Cherrye O'Donal