This council work crew truly is a bunch of – well, not old – but certainly they are…goats!
Bega Valley Shire Council has just employed the goat herd to reduce bushfire hazards in areas of hard to access public land.
The eco-friendly, weed busting goat herd are owned and managed by Rent-A-Ruminant, a local company who supply the herd for weed and vegetation control.
Rent-a-ruminant is owned by husband and wife team and trained biologists Jim Shields and Elisabeth Larsen.
As far as they know, this is one of only two businesses in all of Australia to use goats to combat weed infestations and create fire breaks.
The couple live at Tura but have travelled as far north as Tilba when their goats starred in an a episode of River Cottage Australia, and as far south as Metung and the great lakes in Victoria and all points in between with their herd of hungry ruminants.
“We took the angoras to one job inside a Tarago van that we leased,” Jim Shields said.
“We thought it would be terrible but the angoras liked it, they seemed to prefer classical music on the radio and the long, straight stretches of road,” he quipped.
These days Jim and Elisabeth’s goats are more likely to be their trained troupe of Boer and Boer-cross goats rather than angora goats.
“Our working team is currently 28 goats. We’ve gone away from angoras – they’re not as ideal as Boer and Boer crosses.
“Many are called but few are chosen,” Jim laughs. “We’ve looked at a lot of goats but only kept these as suitable.”
Most people have a well-founded fear of letting a goat loose anywhere near a garden, veggie plot or protected plantings because their voracious and indiscriminate appetite for any plant is well known.
But Jim and Elisabeth’s herd are well-trained, and are kept on task and contained by mobile electric fencing developed in America and imported by Jim.
“The electric netting was designed to keep predators such as wolverines and racoons, which will eat baby goats and sheep - out. It’s a pretty complex process to confine goats and to move them in and out quickly. Our procedures and processes are well-honed.”
The secret, Jim says, is in their training.
“Goats are highly trainable. More trainable than almost anything except perhaps dogs. We train the goats so that they get used to our mobile fencing, and are easily managed onto and off a site,” he said.
Goats performing civic duties are not new.
“I first heard about it when a friend in Seattle, Washington sent me a joke email about these goats getting rid of blackberry on campus at Washington Medical Centre. I’m told the site they ate out features in the opening credits of Gray’s Anatomy,” Jim said.
“I’m not a goat wrangler but when I saw this I contacted Tammy Dunakin from Rent-a-Ruminant based in Seattle, who is a goat wrangler. Tammy has an affiliate program where she trains you to do this sort of stuff so I brought her out here to train us in how to do it.
“We were kindly helped along the way by locals Sue and Shirley Bell who lent us some goats from their Kameruka property. We did two trials; one for Dr Helen Caldecott and one in a Tura Beach flora reserve. With Tammy’s help and Shirley’s goats it worked a treat and we started our own business in 2011.”
Jim and Elisabeth are wildlife and natural resource managers so will assess any area for its suitability before accepting a job and bringing their goat herd in.
Elisabeth is keen to sing the praises of the eco-friendly goats.
“Goats are pleasant to have around – there is no engine noise,” she says.
“They sterilise weed seed in their rumen so they don’t spread seeds as they go through a site. They have soft hooves so they don’t cause erosion. We only use wethers and neutered males so there is no chance of starting feral populations. They are much easier to turn off than a fire and have no carbon footprint,” she says proudly.
“Their grazing improves the soil, and you avoid entirely harmful chemicals.”
To date Rent–a-Ruminant has a 100 per cent success rate from every job they have done.
That being the case you can expect to see more council work crews standing around eating all day – goat crews that is.
To find out more about Rent-a-Ruminant and Tammy Dunakin go to
To find out more about Jim and Elisabeth’s Australian-business go to