Alumni & Friends
Have Goats, Will Travel
IT'S POSSIBLE you've seen Terri Oyarzùn's bovid employees eating weeds on the side of the freeway. Or maybe you've bumped into them roaming an East Bay park, munching poison oak. The goats of the Goats R Us ranch in Orinda are hardworking animals with busy schedules to keep. They get around.
Oyarzùn (attended '77-'78) started Goats R Us with her husband Egon, a native of Chile, in 1994 with 54 rescue goats that they rented out to neighbors to clear brush and poison oak. They now have 65,000 goats that they rent -- in herds ranging from 250 to 3,000 -- to private and public entities for major fire fuel abatement, and brush and weed clearing projects. "Most methods of vegetation management include herbicides or controlled burn," explains Oyarzùn. "We offer an organic alternative. It's vegetation management and fertilizer all in one. That's why God created goats."
Not that the goats do all the work. A typical day for the Oyarzùns doesn't exactly exist, but most start at 4 a.m. with phone calls from the herders who are out in the field with the goats. Then there are herds to be moved, goats at the ranch to be checked on, cared for, and fed. Oyarzùn handles the meds and takes care of the "retired" goats. Paperwork, site visits and problems require immediate attention. "Once we get all the herds and men cared for, there are horses that need riding, dogs that need training," says Oyarzùn. "When you're self-employed you get to make your own schedule. That just means you pick what 20-hour segment of the day you are working and what four hours you are sleeping."
After studying social welfare at SF State, Oyarzùn worked for a while in probation. "I enjoyed that job until the state cut all the funding. Then I stopped enjoying it," she says. Although it seems like a far cry from social work, the grazing business was not such a stretch. Both Oyarzùn and her husband had experience with animals and her course work was not totally unrelated. "I think that everything you do along the way builds your path. My education helped me become more eloquent in my speech and writing. It helps me understand and write contracts -- and work with people. It gave me a wider frame of reference."
Though she may not have imagined it as she sat in Social Policy Analysis, goat grazing has proven to be the life for her. "I'm so very, very happy to have made this choice," she says. "I wake up every day and look out at my animals and my hills. It's given us a very basic, humanitarian, view. It's a straightforward, simple lifestyle."
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