Jillian elected not to give up her goats for auction last year, and her emotional payback with the animals was cemented a few months ago when she returned home from a six-day hospital stay. “When the goats saw me, they ran over to where I was and stood up on their hind legs and leaned against the fence in order to make it easier for me to pet them--something I had never seen them do before. They seemed to say to me that they understood how I hurt. It's hard to put into words, but it's as if they knew I had saved them and they were now repaying me.”
Jillian says she has also found an environmental reason for hers and other goats to escape the slaughterhouse. It came during a family driving trip a year ago to the Bay Area where she saw a herd being used to clear weed-infested open ground. Looking out the car window, the thought germinated: If I can think of a way to use our 4-H goats for weed clearing, then maybe they wouldn’t have to die, and it could help the environment, too.
The plan she is developing involves convincing other kids with goat projects to possibly donate their animals for brush-clearing, and then to convince landowners to use the goats, and, it is hoped, to buy them from the students.
“I believe every life has value, and it is my hope that people will open their hearts and minds to what these goats have to offer,” Jillian, an avowed vegetarian, says.
She has framed her sales pitch persuasively. To her fellow 4-H members, she will appeal to their commitment to serve the environment by using nature’s way instead of gas-powered mowers to clear brush and reduce fire hazard. Of course, her most effective tool might be to have the student look in those big trusting eyes that have grown so familiar.
To her neighbors and others with properties of two or three acres (average size in Valley Center), she will point out that it takes about three hours to mow an acre, which has to be done at least 10 times a year. It requires a riding mower that can cost in the $3,000 to $5,000 range, and can offer only a hot, dusty ride while listening to the ding of rocks denting the blade.
An alternative, Jillian will point out, is to let a goat do the work while the contented homeowner watches TV with a cold drink.
Jillian says she has learned from research and her own experience that goats are hardy and susceptible to few diseases. When browsing is sparse, or in winter months, they can subsist on inexpensive alfalfa. They also appreciate the guardianship of a big, irritable dog when coyotes are around.