Mostly the articles talk about using sheep to maintain your lawn. Not only will these fluffy critters keep your lawn chewed down to a well-trimmed height, but they also provide instant fertilizer in the process.
The latest article he sent called Mow Your Lawn With Mother Nature’s Hungry Critters goes on to talk about the benefits of also using geese, cows and goats to keep things sheep shape…I mean ship shape…in the landscape.
A few weeks ago, he sent me an article about a school in Carlisle Pennsylvania that is using leased sheep to help keep the grass around their solar panels trimmed down. They are estimating that the sheep will save the school $15,000 a year in mowing costs, as well as cut down on air pollution.
Dan Ludwig a “grazing specialist” with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service based in Lebanon County, said that leasing animals for grazing on swaths of government and private land is a growing business.
“It’s gaining popularity, especially in orchards,” Ludwig said.
An old 2009 article in USA Today mentions that sheep have been used in many states (including Maryland) to help keep grass at manageable levels along roadways:
Carroll County, Md. This summer the Maryland State Highway Administration is renting a herd of goats and sheep to control invasive weeds in a wetland area. Spokesman Charlie Gischlar says using a 7,500-pound lawn mower in the area would embed ruts that could destroy the area’s hydrology and endanger the habitat of the Bog Turtle, a four-inch turtle that is listed as a threatened species.
So how does one go about renting a sheep? Or a goat? Or a chicken or goose or cow?
The articles Steve sent me listed several companies that rent sheep and goats. None of them listed any ruminants for hire in the DC, Virginia or Maryland areas. I even emailed the department of agriculture for both states asking if they knew where I could rent a sheep. I never received a reply from either department.
But Steve seemed to have his heart set on a sheep, so I kept looking.
My search led me to the Maryland Small Ruminant Page. They just happened to have a link to a page about Targeted Grazing which DOES list a company in Maryland where you can’t rent a sheep, but you can rent a goat, for targeted grazing.
From The Eco-Goats website:
It is easy to see that our roadsides, open fields, woodlands and backyards are becoming overrun with invasive species and other unwanted vegetation. Machines often can't get to problem areas, humans hands are very labor intensive, and herbicides are dangerous to our waterways, soil, and desired vegetation, not to mention animals and humans.
Enter Eco-Goats! This sustainable alternative is fast, easy, effective, environmentally sound and just plan fun.
"This use of goats for targeted grazing serves as a role model for other parks and sends a strong conservation message to the community. Goats provide a unique opportunity to move toward economical, sustainable and ecological weed control and away from methods relying on the use of heavy equipment or herbicides... In this tight budget time, it is always helpful to find creative solutions and leverage partnerships. The goats are a welcome sight to help us out and also give area children a chance to come enjoy them along with the park."
-- John R. Leopold, Anne Arundel County Executive
If left alone, invasive plants take over our woodlands, strangling valuable trees and threatening important diversity. Open grasslands and neighborhood backyards become overrun, creating a loss in farming productivity, habitat for birds and other wildlife, and enjoyment of outdoor space.
When it comes to clearing unwanted vegetation, goats can provide an ideal alternative to machines and herbicides. They graze in places that mowers can't reach and humans don't want to go (yes, they love Poison Ivy). In fact, goats eat a wide range of unwanted vegetation, which on the East Cost include Kudzu, Oriental Bittersweet, Ailanthus, Multiflora Rose, Japanese Honeysuckle, Mile-A-Minute and more.?
Wow! They eat invasive plant species (eliminating the need for chemical weed control) , provide their own fertilizer (eliminating the need for chemical fertilizer) and mow lawns without the fumes and other problems created by lawn mowers. NOW I see why Steve likes sheep. And goats, too. What eco-friendly gardener wouldn't!