University tests sheep versus lawnmowers

These sheep munching on grass at the University of California, Davis may seem out of place.

They are not. This is an experiment pitting sheep versus lawnmower.

Kiers: "Half of this field is being turned over to the sheep for three days and the other half is going to be maintained conventionally by lawn mowers and the UC Davis ground-crew."

Project lead Haven Kiers, an assistant professor of landscape architecture, says they will be examining several things in their experiment.

Kiers: "We're going to look at species biodiversity to see if maybe they're bringing in new plants, we're going to look at nutrients within the soil to see if they're helping with fertilizer in the soil. Compaction because they may be able to aerate the soil a little bit. And then grass length."

The project is starting small: just 25 sheep on a one-acre spot on campus.

Hunter Ottman is a 23-year-old landscape architecture major hired to play shepherd.

Ottman:"The go-to for so much of the time is just a mower, and when you have basically a species that has evolved to do that naturally, and when there's so little input required to get them out here, why not switch."

There's also an environmental impact. With fewer mowers, Ottman said there's a potential for fewer emissions. For Kiers - the project lead - she enjoys seeing others as excited as her.

"Anytime I mention the sheep project, people get really excited. They want to watch the sheep. They want to come see." As for the sheep, they're just happy to be munching on some grass.

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