Animals have been employed in agriculture for many years — but not on a golf course.
At Silvies Valley Ranch, a small drove of goats has traded the cattle drive for the drive at the first tee on McVeigh’s Gauntlet. Several talented Boer goats have volunteered to serve as caddies for golfers on the seven-hole challenge course set to open in July at the new Retreat & Links resort south of Seneca.
With custom-designed backpacks, the goats will carry several clubs, balls and tees and a six-pack as golfers test their accuracy hitting from the tee box on one ridge to the green on another. And the goats aren’t just doing it for the peanuts.
“We would like to take credit for the idea, but frankly, it was the goats’ idea,” Vice President Colby Marshall joked. “The goats were looking for new career opportunities, a little more longevity in their career paths, and we, being responsible equal opportunity employers, thought we’d give them a shot. You know, being a meat goat doesn’t have quite the same long-term career path as being a goat caddie.”
Silvies is a working ranch with certified organic cattle and goats raised for meat. While most of the goats are destined for the table as chevon, those selected as caddies will work until they are 8 years old and will then be adopted out to golfers, or others, interested in taking them in as pets.
The goats have many rounds ahead of them before retirement, however. Bruce LeGoat is the oldest caddie at 4 and has been training for three years.
“Bruce is in the prime of his career right now,” Marshall said. “When he does retire, he does want to spend that time telling jokes and sitting around the caddie shack with other old golfers.”
The caddies are all affectionately named: Mike LeChevon, Bruce’s nephew Peanut LeGoat and the first female goat caddie, Roundabout LaDoe. Peanut was the reserve grand champion market goat at the 2017 Harney County Fair — “already a star in his own right, but he will tell you he’s very excited about this new career,” Marshall said.
The caddies start training when they are kids. The more than 2,000 goats on the ranch are tended by a Peruvian goatherder, who uses the young caddies-to-be to carry extra water and food.
“Goats, for thousands of years, were pack animals, so this is not something new in terms of them packing things or packing carts,” Marshall said. “It’s just a new spin on that.”
To make the transition from the range to the golf course, Silvies contracted with Seamus Golf Company to design a special backpack.
“This is a first-in-the-world design,” Marshall said. “It’s specially made so they can pack three or four clubs on each side.”
The goats are selected for the caddie program based on their personality and whether they enjoy wearing the backpack. Marshall said they behave much like a dog.
“They will lead on leash. They will stay with you off leash,” he said. “They’re very social. They want to be right there with you. You have their favorite snack, which is a peanut. They’re kind of in heaven up on that course. They’re just not going to want to run off somewhere.”
If they do decide to walk off the job, golfers are provided two-way radios to contact their supervisor.