The battle between the sheep and the lawnmowers at UC Davis

SACRAMENTO, Calif .– If you walk past the University of California, Davis, you might come across a flock of sheep grazing on campus.

The 25 Stray Sheep are part of a new research project to find out if they can successfully cut the grass and replace traditional maintenance crews at the university.

What would you like to know

  • UC Davis studies how well sheep can cut grass compared to other methods of maintenance on campus
  • Haven Kiers, assistant professor of landscape architecture at UC Davis, leads the experiment
  • She is studying 25 sheep grazing grass on campus to see if their feeding habits can help with fertilization and pest control.
  • Kiers hopes sheep will also have a positive impact on student mental health by helping reduce stress and anxiety

Haven Kiers, assistant professor of landscape architecture at UC Davis, is tasked with leading the summer experiment and said it was a passionate project for her.

“This is an idea that I have always wanted to do and now that I’m chic and researcher, I can really do it,” she said.

Kiers has taught at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis for three years. She studies inch by inch how quickly sheep can gnaw grass and whether their feeding habits contribute to fertilization and pest control.

She said the goal of the project is to compare sheep to landscape crews and lawn mowers.

“What workforce is involved? What is the cost involved? And is that something that UC Davis’ landscaping and planning departments could actually adopt for use in less specialized areas, ”she added.

Kiers conducts the experiment by dividing a field on the UC Davis campus into two sections. Half will be shorn in the conventional way and the other half will be cut and eaten by the sheep.

“We will do the same in the area where the lawn mower is. Right before the lawn mower comes in, we measure, and then when it goes again, we measure again, ”she explained.

Even though the project didn’t start until May 5, Kiers said she has already seen a difference in where sheep have worked hard to eat whatever they see.

“You can see where the chomps are and you can walk through it and you can actually see it’s more like a carpet, it’s more neat because the sheep have passed,” she said.

Sheep belong to the UC Davis campus as part of their Animal Science program. Over the next several months, the same group of sheep will work cutting and eating grass every three weeks for three days at a time.

Kiers said farm animals can have many benefits for the landscape by weeding and fertilizing for free.

“We take soil samples and so we look at the microbes in the soil but also the nutrients in the soil to see if they are actually adding free fertilizer to the soil,” Kiers noted.

Kiers hopes the sheep will not only have a positive impact on the landscape, but also on the mental health of the students.

“Watching the sheep and watching them graze and that pastoral feeling, which can reduce stress and anxiety,” she said.

She is encouraged that her project will capture more data for science and help develop better solutions for eco-friendly landscapes.

“If we can create multifunctional landscapes that can actually be used to obtain data for science, but also have a design aspect, then fulfill this practical maintenance goal. This is the type of landscape that I want to be a part of, ”she said.

Although she remains an impartial researcher, Kiers said she would be happy if the sheep on the team beat the lawn mowers this summer.

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