The next line of defence against bushfires could be as simple as the humble goat, if you ask Denny Woods.
Woods runs an unusual business operation on the New South Wales Central Coast, sending out teams of goats that help cut down properties’ bushfire risk – one mouthful at a time – by chomping on weeds.
The brainwave came to Woods three years ago after watching the fatal Black Summer bushfires leave a trail of devastation along the east coast of Australia.
“The bushfires got me thinking that if more people ran goats around the hillsides, they wouldn’t have these problems,” Woods said.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the security work Woods was doing dried up.
“I had some pet goats anyway. Back in high school I used to hire him for a bit of pocket money,” Woods said.
“I was bored at home and I thought, ‘You know what? I reckon this could be a good idea, people will love it’.”
What started out as a Facebook post and five goats is now becoming a rapidly expanding operation.
As well as fire hazard reduction, the goats are also becoming popular with homeowners wanting to tame overgrown, suburban yards. Local councils have also expressed an interest in Woods’ services.
“At first I was just hiring them out, one or two at a time. They would be tethered or in a backyard.
“But it’s got the point now I’ve got 56 goats. Most of the goats have been rescues too. So people have heard about what I do and have had unwanted goats and sheep.”
Woods’ goats now also work in tandem with dozens of sheep.
“The sheep cover the grass, and the goats do the weeds,” Woods said.
With a voracious appetite and nimble feet that can cover steep terrain, goats made the perfect living lawn mower, Woods said.
Weeds like lantana, privet, and morning glory are no match for the roving and seemingly bottomless pits.
“They tend to eat non-stop for a few hours and then they will lie down and chill for a bit,” Woods said, adding an average-sized lawn could be easily cleared in a day or two.
“I’d say about 85 per cent of their day they are walking around browsing, looking for vines and weeds.”
Another reason his goats were popular, aside from the entertainment factor, was that they helped landowners avoid using chemical weedkillers.
“Harmful poisons can kill frogs and bees …. you’re better off just using a goat,” Woods said.
Contact reporter Emily McPherson at email@example.com