Friday, April 18, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

City sheep keep fields in Fairfield under control

sheep grass, 6/25/13

A herd of sheep helps keep the grass and brush down outside the Anheuser-Busch brewery on Busch Drive in Fairfield. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD — Who needs a lawnmower when there are perfectly good sheep to do the job?

That’s the mindset of the folks at Anheuser-Busch and some other landowners around Fairfield. The city is all for it, and in fact has used that same technique in the past to keep weeds down in some rural areas.

“We do it ourselves, even. So a private-property owner can do it as well,” said Erin Beavers, community development director. “You don’t need permits. All they have to do is fence them in so they don’t have animals in the road.”

A group of around 500 sheep now call Busch Drive home as the beer brewers brought in a flock to keep the grass down. They were first held in a corner bordered by Highway 12, but now are being penned across the street. The sheep go along with other alternative uses at the brewery’s grounds, such as solar panels and a wind turbine.

“Grazing has become popular with companies and municipalities, as it offers a reliable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional mowing,” said Kevin Finger, the brewery’s senior general manager, in a statement.

He said a dedicated herder has watched over the group, making sure they stay safe.

“The sheep have done a great job for us,” Finger wrote. “Our program will end later this summer and we’ve appreciated having them as guests.”

Beavers said animals can be safer than most cutting devices in the summer as there is no chance of catching the fields on fire. He also said it can be more economical than hiring someone to do the job. He said folks with solar fields often utilize sheep so they don’t have to cut around the angles beneath the panels.

Goats are also popular for their ability to chew down just about any type of foliage. The city has used them for “flash grazing,” a way to quickly get rid of plants and have less impact on the land in areas like creeks.

“They will even eat poison oak. It’s like lettuce to them,” Beavers said.

Goats can be hard to come by, but Chris Markin with Ameriturf sod farm turned to the Internet to find the dozen or so munching their way across the 400 acres of land leased from the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District.

“Craigslist. You can get anything on there,” Markin said.

He said his company opted for the goats – and one sheep – as an alternative to hiring someone to keep the weeds down. Markin said there is enough to eat that no extra food is brought in.

“It’s better for the environment all the way around,” Markin said. “It’s a greener outcome.”

Reach Danny Bernardini at 427-6935 or dbernardini@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dbernardinidr.

Danny Bernardini

Danny Bernardini

Danny is a newspaper man born and raised in Vacaville. He attended Chico State University and has written for the Enterprise Record and the Reporter. Covers the City of Fairfield, education and crime. A's, Warriors and Saints fan. Listener of vinyl, frequent visitor to the East Bay. Registered "decline to state" voter. Loves a good steak.
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