The next time you see a herd of goats grazing along the shores of the lake at Ken Mitchell Park, you should know these broadleaf browsers are doing their job, helping to rejuvenate the land.
“Other cities have been using goats for years to help restore some of the soils in their open space areas,” said Bob Woods, Brighton open space manager.
Woods said his director found Goat Bros, which had just started their business, and forwarded the information to him and called them up.
Ken Mitchell Park is 600 acres of dedicated open space that the City of Brighton opened in 2020. It sits along the South Platte River and has three large lakes and three miles of Colorado Front Range trail along its open space.
The park is full of plenty of deer, turkey, coyotes, raptors, and migrating waterfowl. It’s also home to the last remaining delisted Bald Eagle with an active nest.
The park was a former gravel mining operation that had depleted the soil of essential nutrients, making it difficult for native vegetation to grow, so populations of invasive weeds took over the soil.
Enter the goats.
The grazing goats spent five days working at Ken Mitchell open space, Woods said, and before the goats arrived, they spread native seed on the soil. The goats went to work, spreading the seeds into the soil with their hooves, into the soil. That part is essential, he said.
There is a chance some of the seeds would grow if they’re just thrown on the soil, he said. By burying the seeds just enough, they have a much better chance of surviving the winter and then sprouting the spring.
“With a goat herd, we water thoroughly into the soil and they walk back and forth with their hooves and they plant those seeds into the ground. It’s almost like their hooves were designed for that,” Wood said.
And they improve the soil in other ways.
“The goat’s urine and manure add nutrients to the soil and, after a few years, improve the quality of that soil. We had them working in a test area, about an acre in size,” Woods said.
Woods said they plan to make it an annual thing to keep grazing in the same area.
Woods said using goats is an environmentally friendly alternative to using toxic-chemical pesticides, especially around lakes and streams. The goats are a new culture to help the environment to heal, and it’s educational.
“When people see 300 goats hard at work, they inherently have a way of bringing people back to the land” Woods said. “Goats are designed to eat; it is their favorite thing to do, and they are really good at it. They are the perfect tool to implement into land management practices.”
“We’ll have them back out into the same spot for the next couple of years, hopeful our budget allows to expand upon that and depending on results,” he said. “The cost is less than $3.50 per goat per day or about $0.85 per hoof per day. The total cost for grazing was $4200.”
Getting back to the land
Owner Jordan Sarazen of Goat Bros started his goat grazing business after he watched the TV show Shark Tank. At the time, he was a financial advisor. His dream began at five years old.
“I always wanted to figure out a way to get back on the land but be able to continue to be a financial advisor, and having livestock as like a hobby,” Sarazen said. “As time went on, I thought of working with the goats and being out on the land.”
Sarazen said he and his wife began researching and learning about goats, how to take care of goats, and what it’s like to take care of them full-time.
They also researched ways to use the goats for land management purposes. He took on an apprenticeship with another company before branching out on his own.
“So I’ve been doing it on our own for about a year now,” he said. “So in total, five years in the working with goats and but three years boots on the ground.”
They started the grazing business last April with 150 goats, growing the herd to 300. It’s been a success, and their goats are booked with jobs until the end of December. Goat Bros uses male and female goats but separates them during breeding season.
“So you don’t want goats breeding year-round, which could double or triple the size of your herd quickly. We have a unique herd but the primary goats breeds are Spanish goats and Boer goats,” Sarazen said.
Sarazen said what makes them unique is that about 75% of their diet is weeds. Goats are broadleaf browsers that tend to go favor that type of vegetation over grasses.
“The goats are very hardy animals. They can eat even poisonous plants, such as poison ivy, water, Hemlock, and all kinds of things that most animals can’t with a herd of 300 working,” Sarazon said,
Brighton was a restoration project, Sarazen said, because it was a gravel pit with heavy equipment disturbing the soil and being tough on the land.
“The goats, with their gentle touch giving organic matter and fertilizer back to that soil, really is going to help rejuvenate over the years to come. Especially with coupled the seeding out there that Bob Woods threw down some native seed giving those seeds the best chance of germination in the spring,” Sarazen said.
Sarazen said they are looking at the big picture and what would like to see happen with their goat grazing business.
“We are the first to say that goats are not the end of all be all. We believe they help complement and enhance the land management practices,” Sarazon said.
Sarazen said we want to continue to grow the herd over the years and continue to be involved in the community and get the education out there of land management practices to get the community on the land to enjoy the open space.
“It’s a huge part of our work bringing our 300 goats to work with municipalities, private landowners, HOA organizations, and communities,” Sarazen said.
“We look towards the future as opportunities arise to share with people how to start one of these goat grazing businesses.”
For more information on hiring goat grazers, contact Jordan Sarazen at 303-913-6726 or email GoatBrosLLC@gmail.com. Visit: https://goatbrosllc.com