21 November, 2021
A herd of 40 goats are on the front-line preventing bush fires in the west, as they graze their way through vegetation in Mudgee.
The goats are part of the Rural Fire Service’s new hazard reduction grazing trial and have been set to work to reduce the fuel loads in high-risk area.
If the trial is successful, it is hoped that goats may be used as an alternative to hazard reduction burning, which is very dependant on weather conditions.
The trial has come in response to the NSW government’s bushfire inquiry following the Black Summer fire season of 2019-20.
The program was first launched in Clandulla and has been recently adopted by the Cudgegong RFS.
Cattle grazing as a fire reduction tool has been studied in the United States, with several reports highlighting the benefits of grazing in reducing severity of wildfires in California.
Preliminary findings released last year by Berkeley University stated that cattle grazing plays an “important role” in reducing fuel.
“There are opportunities to improve fire safety in California by grazing rangelands that are not currently being grazed or even by increasing grazing intensity on very lightly grazed areas.”
There has not been research to show if grazing is more efficient than alternative hazard reduction methods, such as backburning. However, it is hoped that grazing will compliment existing hazard reduction methods.