Sheep As Urban Lawn Mowers Improve Environmental And Human Health

Sheepmowers present environmentally-friendly and cost-effective city panorama upkeep, while additionally decreasing stress and selling human psychological well being and well-being

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If you happen to’re one of many fortunate college students on the College of California at Davis (UC Davis), then you’ll have met the sheepmowers. These are the college’s flock of home sheep which were occupied as campus lawnmowers since 2021, when COVID-19 masking and social-distancing protocols have been broadly adopted, dramatically altering campus life. In addition to conserving the lawns neatly trimmed, the sheep have proved to be a robust temper enhance for college students, workers, school and guests.

Sheepmowers enhance campus morale

Along with grazing on invasive weeds and conserving the grass quick, the sheepmowers enrich the surroundings by depositing natural fertilizer at common intervals on the landscapes the place they graze. Sheepmowers additionally present quite a lot of different environmental advantages, notably decreasing noise air pollution and reducing fossil gas consumption by mechanical lawnmowers. However a current examine goes additional than even these advantages: it studies that sheepmowers are offering some shocking and surprising bonuses: they enhance peoples’ psychological well being and well-being, and cut back scholar stress ranges just by … being.

“This began out as an experiment to check their mowing talents, and we’ve got now printed analysis on how they make folks really feel peaceable,” stated the lead writer of the brand new examine, panorama architect Haven Kiers, director of the sheepmowers venture and an assistant professor within the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences on the College of California at Davis.

This analysis is critical and well timed as a result of it paperwork {that a} flock of grazing sheep alleviates scholar loneliness and stress and relieves the scholars’ psychological and bodily well being struggles, that are accelerating.

“I can’t imagine that is analysis; it’s a lot enjoyable”, Professor Kiers enthused.

Professor Kiers and her collaborators discovered concerning the psychological results of the sheepmowers by surveying roughly 200 college students, workers, school and group members at UC Davis, asking them how they felt both as they walked previous the sheep, or as they sat on chairs amongst the sheep while finding out, knitting, sketching or portray watercolors.

“We discovered that there was a considerably decrease chance of present emotions of being ‘very careworn’ or ‘careworn’ among the many sheep mower group when in comparison with the group that didn’t expertise sheep mowers”, Professor Kiers stated in an announcement. “The group with the sheep was simply a lot happier.”

The scholars agree.

“I liked seeing the sheep proper earlier than my chem midterm”, one scholar wrote on the analysis group’s Instagram survey. “It helped me distract myself and never stress proper earlier than taking the examination.”

“Simply taking a break from a chaotic workday and mindlessly observing the flock has introduced pleasure to so many individuals”, stated Mina Bedogne, a analysis assistant on the venture who’s now in her fourth yr of undergraduate work in environmental science and administration, in an announcement. “Some college students discover our grazing occasions so therapeutic that they’ll keep there for hours consuming lunch, doing work and catching up with associates.”

The sheep present the impetus to cut back loneliness amongst school college students. It is a rising drawback, thanks partially to COVID-19 lockdowns. For instance, one current survey performed by the American Faculty Well being Affiliation discovered that 67% of feminine college students and 54% of male college students felt ‘very lonely’ throughout the previous 12 months (PDF).

“Loneliness is a battle for a lot of of our college students”, agreed co-author Carolyn Dewa, chair of the Graduate Group in Public Well being Sciences and a professor within the Division of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, in an announcement. “One strong analysis discovering is that social assist is a protecting issue for psychological well being. One of many methods the sheep mower occasions assist to advertise psychological well being is by offering a possibility for a shared expertise.”

“The occasions assist folks to see that they’re part of a bigger group and provides folks a way of group”, Professor Dewa stated.

“I believe it is a actually sensible venture”, a scholar advised The Aggie, the UC Davis newspaper, noting that the sheep are “low-cost labor.”

Certainly, utilizing sheep (or goats) to keep up landscapes and to advertise hearth prevention as a substitute of hiring a military of individuals and conventional equipment isn’t a brand new idea. Already, vineyards and orchards depend on sheep and goats to graze or browse on the weeds that develop between cultivated vines or timber. These animals are more and more discovering grazing alternatives round photo voltaic panel arrays, alongside creeks and highways, in public greenspaces and on steep slopes.

Apparently, so-called multifunctional panorama research like this one beforehand solely employed both canines or horses.

“We actually want to have a look at how we are able to get probably the most out of panorama administration, in all varieties — within the bodily surroundings in addition to psychological well being”, Professor Kiers identified. To do that, we should higher perceive learn how to work with a larger range animal helpers by interesting to their strengths.

A lot of the UC Davis sheepmowers are feminine black-faced sheep breeds, both Hampshire or Suffolk, together with just a few Southdown or Dorset people. All of those sheep breeds are bred for meat, slightly than wool. There’s even one all-black sheep within the flock.

On the finish of March this yr, the freshly shorn ewes will resume their landscaping duties between 0900 and 1600 and can proceed this work for six months, concluding on the finish of October. Every day, the sheepmowers are gathered right into a trailer and trucked to the central a part of the campus the place they graze below the adoring eyes of their human followers. The realm, situated between the Chemistry Annex and Bainer Corridor (Figures 1 & 2), is enclosed in a brief electrical fence surrounded on the surface by a snowfence.

After the sheep have completed their grazing duties for the summer season, they winter of their barns elsewhere on campus, leaving Professor Kiers and her collaborators to proceed their research by measuring soil compaction and fertilization charges, plant biodiversity and grass size. These knowledge are serving to researchers and panorama managers determine how the sheepmowers profit city garden landscapes in addition to how they enhance campus morale.


A. Haven Kiers, Kelly M. Nishimura and Carolyn S. Dewa (2023). Leveraging Campus Landscapes for Public Well being: A Pilot Examine to Perceive the Psychological Results of City Sheep Grazing on Faculty Campuses, Worldwide Journal of Environmental Analysis and Public Well being 20(2):1280 | doi:10.3390/ijerph20021280

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