Goats are the latest weapon in bushfire prevention in New South Wales.

Key points:

  • Goats recruited to help with bushfire hazard reduction 
  • The animals are being used to graze weeds and let native grasses flourish
  • The trial was borne from a NSW inquiry into the Black Summer bushfires

The animals are the latest recruits to join the world’s largest volunteer team of firefighters.

Forty goats have been involved in a trial in the state’s central west to see whether they can help the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) with bushfire prevention efforts by grazing grass and scrublands. 

“They’ve done an absolutely fantastic job,” said RFS Inspector Troy Gersback. 

“It was really fantastic to see in these couple of small areas we’ve already trialled, to see such great success.” 

white goat  eating long grass

Judith the goat is part of a herd which is grazing grass and scrub lands for the NSW RFS to lower the bushfire fuel load.(ABC Central West: Xanthe Gregory )

Hungry for success

The animals have been chosen because they tend to eat anything. 

“Goats are browsers, and they’ll eat a lot more weedy sort of things than other domestic animals,” said the goats’ owner Billie Johnstone. 

“That’s why they can be useful in areas which have not been rotationally grazed regularly.

“They can turn what is growing there into fertility, so they eat them, they turn them into poo, and we’ve noticed it becomes a lot less weedy.”

brown goat in long grass

The NSW Rural Fire Service is expanding its trial, with goats being deployed to all corners of the state. (ABC Central West: Xanthe Gregory)

The goats have so far grazed two parcels of land in the Mudgee district.

“We actually did a few little test burns just to confirm what we thought would happen, would actually happen. 

“The fire will start, but it will only teeter around. 

“It’s not going to develop into what we call a crown fire, a very large fire.”

Goats standing on a hill

The NSW RFS is using goats to expand its grazing program as part of bushfire prevention efforts.(ABC Central West: Xanthe Gregory)

New tool in ‘toolbox’

A second trial has started on land near a health facility at Werris Creek near Tamworth in the state’s northwest. 

Inspector Gersback said using grazing to reduce the fire risk was less complicated than other hazard reduction techniques.

“You don’t want smoke near a health facility. It creates a whole range of other problems that we have to manage,” he said.

It also can be used all year round, regardless of the weather conditions. 

The trial has come out of an independent inquiry into the Black Summer bushfires, which recommended expanding grazing in hazard reduction programs. 

The RFS is set to extend the trial to other parts of the state, including Greater Sydney, the north and south coasts and Tumut in the Riverina. 

Woman smiling at camera, carrying roll of wire

Goat farmer Billie Johnstone is working with the Rural Fire Service to reduce the bushfire threat.(ABC Central West: Xanthe Gregory )

The RFS says it hopes the animals’ involvement will help reduce the fire threat by the next bushfire season. 

“If we factor goats into our toolbox, and we can find more places to use the goats, we will use them,” RFS Chief Superintendent Jayson McKellar said.

“We will use them like we use hazard reduction burning or clearing.”

Posted , updated 

How goats are helping avoid another Black Summer of bushfires
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