Grazing goats maintain fire break in Ramona’s Country Estates

By Karen Brainard

The number of goats removing vegetation that could fuel fires near San Diego Country Estates has grown from 600 to 1,400.

Ray Holes, left, explains how his goats can maintain fuel breaks to forest service and fire officials near the Cedar Creek Trailhead off Thornbush Road in San Diego Country Estates. In the forefront is an area that the goats cleared while the area in the background is two years’ worth of growth after the forest service cut it. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

As of May 9, they were two-thirds of the way through their 100-acre project in the Cleveland National Forest, according to officials. They started on April 23.

It takes a lot of animals to forage those acres, said Ray Holes, owner of Prescriptive Livestock Services in Kennewick, Wash. For 15 years, Holes has been delivering goats for large grazing projects throughout the Western states, expanding his herd to 9,000.

“We consider them a tool,” Holes said of the goats.

He met with officials from the forest service and Cal Fire to explain the process, answer questions, and review cleared areas.

The forest service considers the goat grazing project to maintain the San Vicente/Barona Mesa Community Defense line that protects the Estates, and other fuel breaks, an experiment.

Palomar District Ranger Joan Friedlander said she was nervous about the reaction of residents but has received positive feedback.

Goats take a water break in the Barona Mesa area. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

“Just very excited myself to see the results,” she said.

The goal, Forest Service Fuels Battalion Chief Tim Gray said, is a 75 percent reduction in vegetation.

The grazing is an alternative to cutting and piling brush, and burning it, Gray said, adding that the burning scares residents.

Gray said the goats have eaten a lot of oak brush and manzanita, taking out ladder fuels. Much of what they eat is chamise.

Holes pointed out that the nutrition level of the plants is important for the goats, who are usually purged beforehand, and any plants left were probably considered undesirable.

Several elements are used to keep the goats in place, including fencing and herders with dogs.

“They are by far the most difficult farm animal to keep in,” said Holes.

According to Gray, when a military helicopter flew over, making a loud noise, “The goats didn’t really like that. They jumped the fence.”

“They were just really nervous,” explained Holes.

This isn’t the first time goats have been used in that part of the Cleveland National forest, according to a member of the forest service’s Descanso District who came to see how the grazing was going. He said that after the Laguna Fire in the 1970s, goats were brought in to maintain the area.

Related posts:

  1. Forest service brings in goats to maintain fuel break
  2. Veterans clear brush near Country Estates
  3. July 4th Parade in Country Estates
  4. Inmates work on fire break
  5. Supervisors maintain fire mitigation rates for 2012-13

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Posted by Staff on May 15 2013. Filed under Backcountry, Country Living, Featured Story, News, Ramona, Sheriff/Fire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

5 Comments for “Grazing goats maintain fire break in Ramona’s Country Estates”

  1. Marco Tassara

    I'd like to see if I could have those goats come to my 22 acre parcel. Anyone know how to contact Ray Holes?

  2. CA Smith

    From a short google search on Prescriptive Livestock Services in Kennewick, Wash I got the following:
    Ray Holes
    208 740 9264
    509 585 0333
    Good luck

  3. Ray Holes, PLS

    Thanks to Karen Brainard for the nice article, and all the supportive folks in the community and on the SanVicente/Cleveland National Forest Targeted Grazing Project.

    We hope to continue helping the community reach their project goals and look forward to incorporating private property owners, business, agencies and any others in the success.

    We'll most certainly be back in California, but I've just completed a television interview with Roger Hedgecock and am headed north for a bit.
    If you'd like to see that TV segment and more great media of a great community's pro-activity, please go to and enter 'ray holes goats' in the search field.
    Also, I think Googling me will get you more information on our projects throughout the west.

    I'm fortunate to operate a business that is truly a win for the land owner, a win for the livestock, a win for the environment, a win for your community, and a win for my industry.

    Thanks to Marco Tassara for your post of interest which prompted me to post.
    I look forward to hearing from you and any others interested in our unique industry.

    Most Sincerely,

    Ray Holes
    Prescriptive Livestock Services
    "Your Professional Targeted Grazing Specialist"
    208 740 9264
    (currently under construction)

  4. Dennis

    Who pays who here? Do Mr Holes' goats get free or reduced lunch, or does the forest service rent the goats?

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