KA‘U, Hawaii Island — A goat herd rattles through the thicket near Kapapala Ranch’s main gate. They keep their distance, staring at Lani Cran-Petrie’s parked SUV. Two cloud-white Polish sheepdogs scuttle to the fence to welcome her: One is a puppy, Max, the other is slightly older.
She explains how the dogs live with the herd, guarding them from feral pigs when the shepherd is away. With dogs present the goats peacefully chew back the invasive plants, such as strawberry guava and fire trees, that started spreading across the land in the 1960s.
The goats, eventually sold for their meat, are part of Cran-Petrie’s land management strategy for her 34,000-acre ranch. But its lifeblood is a 2,400-head herd of cows, part of the ranch’s cow-calf operation.