Rent-A-Sheep for Weed Control

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California Farm Bureau Federation

Want an environmentally friendly way to remove weeds and invasive species? Don Watson, a rancher in Loveland, Colorado, has discovered that his sheep are not just good for wool, but also for vegetation management. According to the California Farm Bureau Federation, Watson recently launched his "targeted grazing" service, Wooly Weeders, as a natural alternative to the use of herbicides.

Though still a relatively new idea, using livestock such as sheep and goats to control weeds and brush has gained attention and popularity in recent years. Watson called his grazing business a good complement to his ranching operation that provides another important revenue stream.

He said before getting into the grazing business, he was actually losing money selling meat and wool. Today, he said he nets a profit.

Landowners can rent Watson's herd to control weeds in what he calls a "symbiotic quid pro quo." The weeds feed the sheep and the sheep provide manure, which acts as a fertilizer.

The idea was launched by accident. Watson's sheep had gotten into a neighbor's vineyard one day and feasted on vines. Later, after retrieving the sheep, the neighbor called wondering when the sheep could return. Since then, Watson's traditional ranching operation has been supplemented by his natural mowing service–a true environmental entrepreneur.

For other examples of "rent-a-goat" operations, see goats clearing kudzu in Tennessee or goats devouring blackberry vines in the Pacific Northwest.

Shawn Regan is the Director of Publications and a Research Fellow at PERC. He holds a M.S. in Applied Economics from Montana State University and degrees in economics and environmental science from Berry College. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Quartz, High Country News, Reason, Regulation, Grist, and Distinctly Montana. Shawn...
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