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Real Life as a Prescribed Goat Grazier

By   /  June 26, 2017  /  Comments Off on Real Life as a Prescribed Goat Grazier

Here’s another example from a member of our On Pasture community describing some of the fun and the challenges of life working with livestock.

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I often get asked “What on earth got you into this business?” “Why did you want to become a goat wrangler?”  Well, that is a great question. I was burned out from working in the trauma end of health care for years, including 10 years as a Paramedic in the Seattle area and then several more at the Seattle regional trauma center in the Emergency Room and the Burn ICU doing wound care on critical burn patients. I was dissatisfied with my job. I had seen too many things I could not “un see” and, I was losing my ability to” feel” like normal people do.  I did not want to work for the man anymore and the thought of a 9 to 5 job made me want to hurl.

One day I had an “aha” moment when out visiting with my two pet goats.  You see, they looked really bored just hanging around in the pasture. All of a sudden out of nowhere a little voice in my head compelled me to say, out loud, to my goats, “You guys look bored! You need a job. I am going to start a business, call it Rent-A-Ruminant and hire your little butts out so you are no longer bored and I have a new career.” Then, I laughed out loud. Yup, it was that simple. Now getting from that point to actually doing something about it was another story. I started telling people about my idea and they would all laugh but then they would say, “That’s a really good idea.” After many of those responses I decided to actually try to figure out how to make it happen. The rest is history.

The Benefits

So why would someone want to live away from home for a big chunk for the year with only their goats and dogs as companions? Why would they want to work outside in the brush often in the raging heat and on steep hills? Why would they want to be their own boss and have to run a business? Why would they want to have animals as employees? Why?

Embassagoats at work

Because it is an amazing life that’s why. It is a modern day nomadic lifestyle and it is doing something that is actually good for the planet. You meet really great people from all walks of life from homeless folks to Governors, Mayors and CEO’s. The goats are what I like to call “Goodwill Embassagoats”. They bring people together to just sit and watch them eat and be goats. In the inner cities this is even more profound. I call it “goats out of context.” People are absolutely awe struck by seeing them in the cities. In Seattle we have been working for the city for so long that the tour business “The Duck” adds us to their route as they drive tourists around the city and Pedicab drivers bring their fares by to visit. We have become a part of the unique story of what makes Seattle, Seattle.

Solving Problems

Plenty of weird things happen. Most people know that what the goat wants the goat often gets and when there is a herd that is in the plural. Most of the time they behave. But every once in a while they live up to their reputation of being escape artists.

One example of this is my now retired goat Ethel, a “unigoat” who was disbudded incorrectly and has a single, straight-as-an-arrow horn about ½ an inch off center of the middle of her head. In every new pasture, Ethel would get on her knees and nibble around the entire perimeter of the electrified netting, her lips knowing exactly how close she could get to the fence before she got shocked. The problem was that every so often she would pop out a post by lifting the bottom wire resulting in the occasional escape of a good chunk of the herd. This could mean that I’d have to send my dog out on a blind outrun in the middle of a nice neighborhood to round up 120 escaped goats running amok through the streets and peoples’ yards.

You also have to think and act fast when you’re in this business. My herd was once clearing a hillside, while fenced in by chain link rent-a-fence panels. Now you’d think that this type of fencing would be about as secure as you could get right? Well think again. Here in the Pacific Northwest we have beautiful fall seasons and lots of big maples with leaves that  turn every shade of red, yellow and orange imaginable.  This is all great until you add in a freak wind storm with 60 mile per hour gusts.  In this case, the leaves got blown onto the fence in such numbers that it created a beautiful platter of food for the goats who all stood with their front legs up on the fence to eat the leaves. With 120 goats a standing on the fence combined with 60 mile per hour gusts of wind and the leaves acting like a sail when the wind hit, the result was fence dominos.  At about 6:30 am in a very populated neighborhood next to a busy street, asleep in my trailer across the street from the pen, I heard a loud, sequential, crashing sound. I jumped out of bed in my pajamas and looked out the window to see 3 blocks of chain link fence panels lying on the ground.

This is the kind of fence we were dealing with.

Still in my pajamas I grabbed the dog and ran outside. Luckily the traffic hadn’t started yet, and the goats were not crossing over the panels because they didn’t want to walk on the chain link, and they were busy furiously munching down the leaves. I loosed the dog to run up and down the street in front of the downed fence to dissuade the goats from crossing the panels into the road. Then neighbors out on their morning walks saw what was happening, called more neighbors so that soon I had about 40 people out helping. I was still in my Pj’s and we are all getting pelted with the dried goat poop blowing up off the dirt due to the wind. It felt like little BB’s hitting us in the face.

My helpers made sure the goats didn’t cross the panels so I could put up my portable netting in record speed.  A few of the goats were trying to venture out over the panels by then so the dog was busy keeping them in and my citizen helpers were grabbing any that made it and taking them back into the pen. I got the netting up and the goats were once again contained. The people were overjoyed to be able to be a part of this modern day roundup and were all deputized by myself as honorary goat wranglers… All in all it turned out to be a great start to the day.

This is why I live with my goats. If we choose to be in this business then we need to be as careful and responsible as we can be to see that our animals and the places we work are well cared for and protected.

If you’re considering this line of work, you might want to talk with Tammy about the Rent-a-Ruminant Franchise program. She’s trying to make it easy for others to join her as goat wranglers.

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About the author

Tammy Dunakin is the owner and Chief Goat Wrangler at Rent-A-Ruminant, located on Vashon Island in the Seattle area. Tammy, her herding dogs, and the goats form a team who all pitch in to clear land and get it ready for whatever project you have next.

Tammy started this business in 2004 with only ten goats and now the herd has grown to over one hundred and twenty happy goats.
She brings goats to locations to eat a wide range of vegetation, such as blackberries, ivy, and other invasive species. She now offers franchise opportunities to help others get going in the goat grazing business.

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