July 13, 2021

Meet Christian Córdoba, goatherd for the Facilities Division’s Vegetation Management Program. While the goats he tends are an adorable distraction and play a crucial role in the Lab’s wildfire prevention and mitigation efforts, few know about Christian’s background.

The Peruvian native is one of approximately 2,000 habitants of the town of Paccha, in the department of Junín. A four-hour drive from the capital Lima, and at an altitude of 12,000 feet, Paccha is nestled in the cold, central Andes mountains. The town’s name derives from the native Quechua word for waterfall.

Alongside his black and white sheepdog, Andi, Christian is readying the goat herd to depart the Lab for other parts of the Bay Area, but he stopped a moment to answer a few questions about himself.

Tell us a bit about you, your family, and where you come from.

I’ve been a “borreguero” or shepherd for eight years. I came to herding through my grandparents, who were borregueros as well. The people in my town primarily raise cattle for a living and sheep, llamas, and vicuñas, as well as agriculture. I have four brothers and a sister, but only one of my brothers is also a shepherd, working here in California until recently.

Do you travel back to Peru often?

No, I’m a contractor and spend three years herding sheep and goats here in the U.S. before heading back to Peru for three months and starting the cycle over again. Certainly, I miss my family, but the work calls for us to be apart for a long time because the herds need to be cared for. This is the last year of my [current] contract, and I will be heading back to Peru this fall.

What’s a typical day for you; what are some of the challenges?

I wake up every day in the early morning hours, make some coffee, and leave my trailer around 5:00 a.m. I always live near the goats. I look over them to make sure nothing disturbed them the previous night, and I grab Andi, and we all head out to pasture. Andi is one of my two sheepdogs. The other, older one, is back in Peru enjoying retirement.

You always have to be wary of dangers, coyotes primarily, during the night. There are lots of coyotes. People have seen mountain lions as well, but I have yet to see one in the eight years I’ve been working in this area.

People at the Lab are generally respectful of the goats. Except for the occasional selfie, people tend to keep their distance. That’s not always the case in some of the area parks where I’ve taken the herd. People tend to be curious and approach the containment fence, only to get a nasty shock from the [mild] electrical current we use to deter the goats.

Where do the goats call home, and where do they go next?

The goats come from a ranch in Briones, California. They spend one to one-and-a-half months here at the Lab before moving on to other locales. We work from March until October throughout the Bay Area: Castro Valley, Concord, San Francisco, San Ramon, many places.