The sheep mowers make their debut on UC Davis’ important campus this spring


Sheep, used as pure garden mowers, return to campus within the hopes of reducing college students’ stress and boosting morale



At 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 30, 25 freshly sheared sheep rushed the grassy mounds in between the Chemistry Annex and Bainer Corridor on campus — the place they’ll tackle their subsequent pure garden mowing job.

Haven Kiers, an assistant professor of panorama structure, is main a undertaking that research how grazing sheep can enhance a panorama ecosystem in addition to the well-being of the people that work together with that land and the sheep. The undertaking, known as “Sheepmowers,” has been in progress on the college for a few yr, however that is the primary time that the sheep are stationed on the primary UC Davis campus. 

Final yr, the sheep had been positioned in a discipline between Previous Davis street and Arboretum Drive, by the Environmental Horticulture constructing. They weren’t very simple to encounter, until you occurred to be strolling by the considerably distant a part of campus. However on the morning of March 30, college students lined up with their telephones to take pictures and movies of the sheep arriving on the pen that they’ll graze for 3 days in a row each three to 4 weeks till the tip of spring quarter. Sidled up subsequent to the Silo, the brand new location is seen for college students popping out of sophistication and guests touring the primary campus alike. 

Kiers is worked up concerning the implications of being so centrally positioned, for the reason that undertaking goals to make use of sheep as mechanisms of a multifunctional panorama, which incorporates their impact on the individuals who see them.

“We wish to perceive find out how to create landscapes that do extra than simply look fairly,” Kiers mentioned. “We’re on this idea of city grazing as a result of it reduces operational prices and hopefully improves sustainability. The half that we’re going to take a look at extra this quarter is that if the sheep assist make individuals happier — if they assist cut back stress and nervousness.”

The group invitations college students and different passersby to benefit from the presence of the sheep in garden chairs arrange across the sheep’s fence. The chairs are part of a program by the campus planning and environmental stewardship division known as “Chair Share,” which invitations college students to take a seat, loosen up and revel in nature on campus. These chairs will also be present in areas across the arboretum. 

Because the sheepmowing group started this undertaking, they developed actions that might help within the accomplishment of their aim to enhance well-being and decrease stress of neighborhood members. Final yr, they hosted occasions like watercolor portray, knitting and felting with the sheep’s wool, that occurred subsequent to the sheep’s pen. This yr, they hope to host comparable occasions, which might be introduced on their web site and on Instagram

Lucy Yuan, a fourth-year panorama structure main, is a scholar shepherd with the undertaking and spends the grazing days on the sheep pen. She is answerable for preserving observe of the quantity of people that go to the sheep and surveying individuals’s responses to the sheep. Her senior thesis focuses on the advantages of sheep in city areas. 

I’m finding out extra the general results of bringing sheep into city areas,” Yuan mentioned. “Proper now, that is particularly on UC Davis’s campus, however what wouldn’t it be like if you happen to introduced sheep onto different campuses or different public locations?”

Included in her undertaking is a information detailing the method that the sheepmowing group went by way of to get the sheep on campus, their analysis targets, sheep administration and the challenges that got here with the undertaking. Yuan can also be specializing in explaining all the advantages of sheep in city areas, together with garden mowing and the impression on people. 

“I feel sheep [seem] fairly simple to deal with as a result of they spook simply,” Yuan mentioned. “Everybody appears to assume that it’s tremendous enjoyable and simple on the finish of the day to get them again into the trailer, however the black-faced sheep are particularly gregarious. Matt Hayes, the sheep supervisor, is aware of which of them are the troublemakers who attempt to run away.”

The 25 sheep that graze the chemistry mounds are usually the identical each day, with just a few exceptions. Of the 25, most are black-faced breeds, although the undertaking makes use of 4 totally different sheep breeds — dorset, hampshire, suffolk and southdown. All of those breeds are bred for his or her meat, versus different sheep breeds which are raised for his or her wool. There’s even one fully black sheep, which is Yuan’s favourite of the flock due to his large character. 

“He has a twin that’s a feminine,” Yuan mentioned. “He was going to be despatched off to public sale for his meat, however he saved escaping. Each time [the sheep managers] tried to load him up, they thought he was the sister, and didn’t load him into the trailer to be despatched off. He prevented it so many occasions that they determined to maintain him right here.”

Yuan shouldn’t be the one scholar to get pleasure from spending time with the sheep. Jasmine Marquez is a fourth-year animal science main who has labored with campus sheep earlier than. 

“I simply love seeing them,” Marquez mentioned. “It’s sort of cool that everybody’s simply right here collectively watching the sheep. The sheep amenities are outdoors the [main campus], so most individuals don’t actually get to see them, however after they carry them right here, you get to observe what they do.”

Abigail Segal is a third-year animal science main who has already been out to go to the sheep a number of occasions this week. When requested if she thinks the sheep have the potential to decrease stress ranges in college students who work together with them, she mentioned she undoubtedly thought so.

“Oh, I feel 100%, so long as you’re an animal individual,” Segal mentioned. “They usually’re proper on campus. Though sheep don’t significantly prefer to be pet, it’s nonetheless enjoyable to simply watch them.”

Segal used to go to the sheep final yr after they had been positioned nearer to the sting of campus, and she or he mentioned she thinks the undertaking is a good concept. 

“I feel it is a actually good undertaking,” Segal mentioned. “I do know in Orange County, they did this with goats. It’s low-cost labor — you don’t should pay for individuals to panorama and use equipment. You simply have animals.” 

That is definitely not the primary occasion of utilizing forage animals for city grazing, as Segal described. Beforehand, sheep have been utilized in varied public areas in Paris to keep up grass progress in a extra eco-friendly method than conventional equipment. Since 2014, West Sacramento has utilized the assistance of goats to munch on extra vegetation for fireplace prevention. This yr, they’ve introduced in 400 goats. 

Utilizing these forage animals not solely reduces the fossil gasoline vitality required for grass and vegetation upkeep, however in addition they present a supply of natural fertilizer by way of their waste. Many vineyards and orchards use sheep and goats to graze cowl crops which are grown between their vines and bushes. Kiers talked about that they can be utilized to graze between photo voltaic panels too as a result of the small animals are capable of stroll beneath and across the slim areas. 

Kiers additionally famous that the wool from the sheep’s abdomen, which is often too low high quality for use in manufacturing, can be utilized as a soil modification. The wool could be integrated into soil as a technique to enhance water retention due to its capability to soak up liquids.

“We’ve undoubtedly discovered that we’re not going to interchange garden mowers, however that is one thing totally different,” Kiers mentioned. “With the entire different components that the sheep are contributing, there’s quite a lot of potential for a lot of locations.”


Written by: Maya Shydlowski —




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