UC Davis researcher studies effect of sheep grazing on urban environments

Local News

DAVIS, Calif. (KTXL) – Sheep, and goats for that matter, have been used recently for fire prevention measures devouring potential dry fuels that can endanger homes and property. 

But one UC Davis researcher is taking it a step further by testing other ways that sheep can help humans out. 

One small herd has been turned loose not on a pasture, but a lawn area used for campus outdoor events. 

“I’m getting as much data as I can,” said Haven Kiers, assistant professor of landscape architecture.

Kiers is looking at how sheep can benefit more urban environments, like how tightly sheep can trim leaves of grass and in what timeframe. 

She’s already discovered that their first choice is weeds. 

“Weeds are like candy to them,” Kiers explained. “So, there’s some bindweed in there, which is a horrible pest weed for gardeners. And it’s the first thing they go for.”

Studies will be made on the cost effectiveness and practicality of sheep in an more urban landscape setting. 

Don’t expect sheep to be mowing your lawn anytime soon, but serious research being done at UC Davis has implications in an age of global warming.

Wide swaths of lawns are used to landscape parks, business properties and school campuses. 

“We’re looking at how much gasoline is used, looking at how much carbon is given off by those mowers, but we’re also looking at are these sheep fertilizing these lawns and reducing the need for fertilizer,” Kiers said.

Sheep are grazers by nature eating low to the ground, as opposed to goats which are browsers that can chew up trees, wires and anything else they can reach. 

And because sheep are so social they can keep together and be controlled a little easier. Kiers’ shepherd students are also measuring the reaction of humans to see if sheep can play a more visible and soothing role as part of the campus landscape. 

“Take the sheep that we have hidden away in the sheep barn and really just bring them out so people can engage with them and be part of the campus,” Kiers said.

A live Instagram feed of the sheep from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is also being used to measure the acceptance of sheep by humans. The study runs through Friday. 

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