Entrepreneur uses herding as a goat-to weed control
Vince Thomas never dreamed of being the goat guy.
But with more than 100 goats under his care — animals that are used for his weed- and fuels-abatement business, Goat Grazers — Thomas undeniably is a goatherder.
Thomas founded Goat Grazers two years ago after watching how quickly a few goats cleared weeds on his property in Spanish Springs.
“Every year I would get my piles ready to burn, and one day I looked around and there was nothing to burn,” Thomas says. “I said, ‘Maybe there is something to this.’
“This was not my plan, but I am glad it turned out this way.”
Thomas researched the idea of grazing goats as a business for about nine months before purchasing six goats. He initially took his goats to family and friends’ properties to learn how they worked and what kinds of problems might arise as they fed. He also learned the best times for thinning the many different types of weeds that proliferate in the Truckee Meadows.
Today he’s got more than 100 goats spread between Spanish Springs and a friend’s ranch in Washoe Valley. He keeps the male bucks in Spanish Springs and the does, wethers (castrated males) and kids are housed in Washoe Valley to control his goat population.
Thomas is still searching for black ink after a heavy capital investment that involved a buying a Ford F-250 pickup and transport trailer that can carry 30 goats at a time, as well as new portable electrified fencing to keep the goats penned in — and predators such as coyotes at bay.
His prices for customers vary depending on location, size of their property, the amount and kinds of weeds growing, and whether Thomas has to set up the portable fencing. A rough rule of thumb: 50 goats can clear an acre of land in two days.
Expenditures include vitamins and minerals to supplement the goats’ diet, and depending on what the goats are eating he sometimes also has to purchase several bales of alfalfa, which can cost $65 a day.
Thomas thought the biggest learning curve would be in the field of animal husbandry, but so far he’s learned much more about horticulture and weed management, such as the right time of year for his goats to eat certain weeds so that they won’t grow back.
Business so far has been done through word of mouth, but its slowly gaining enough traction that Thomas can see the day when he has to hire an employee and split work. For now, he’s still working as a firefighter for Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District.
“I know this is going to catch on and be fairly big,” he says. “In five years, hopefully we will have a couple of employees and split the herd — that is my goal.
“Everyone I’ve (worked with) so far has been very happy and very pleased with it, and I think I will grow. I’ll know when I’ve made it because I’ll start seeing other companies doing the same thing. But there’s enough out here for me and 10 other people.”
The agreements are designed to split the costs of improvements such as traffic signals between Carson City and developers whose projects generate the traffic increases that trigger the need for improvements.