Katahdin Sheep Coming to Help Clear Invasive Vegetation at Elmwood

The invasive plant species that have taken over much of the lawn at the historic Elmwood Estate, now owned by Eastern Kentucky University, will soon meet their match.

And it won’t involve a drop of herbicide or human sweat.

EKU Facilities Services and the University’s Department of Agriculture are collaborating to use purebred Katahdin sheep to rid the property of unsightly Japanese honeysuckle, euonymus and winter creeper.

The Katahdin sheep, bred in Maine and prized for their adaptability, docile nature, low maintenance and resistance to parasites and foot rot, will strip the plants of all vegetative matter, leaves and flowers, removing nutrients and weakening the plants. Once a plant is irradiated, the stumps can be removed and more desirable plants can be introduced.

The Katahdin sheep in the EKU Department of Agriculture herd “were raised in a forage-based system so they are more adapted to plants,” said Ted Herr, a junior agriculture major who will present a program on the animals and targeted grazing on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, at 1 p.m. at Elmwood.  The event is free and open to the public.

“This fall, I went with (Agriculture professor) Dr. (Ed) Fredrickson to pick out the herd that we have now,” Herr said. “After that, I began to work with the sheep and develop records to help make a productive herd. Along with that, I elected to do an independent study this semester over targeted grazing and other factions of the sheep industry.”

The sheep will be accompanied by alpacas, which will serve to protect the herd. They will be restricted to an area behind the house by electric fencing.

EKU Facilities Services has enjoyed a close working relationship the Department of Agriculture for years.

“We borrow equipment from each other and work together on the Community Gardens as well as their plant collection areas,” noted Facilities Services Director David Williams, a product of the program. “Agriculture faculty have always been willing to let us use their soils laboratory when we need to test soil samples from athletic fields or flower beds. Their faculty maintain a ‘wish list’ of plants that they want on campus as examples for many of their courses, and we do everything we can to accommodate that.

“This grazing collaboration is the first of its kind, and I expect this to be much more effective than chemical or mechanical controls, and more fun and interesting too.”

For more information about the April 22 event, contact Randy Wilson with Facilities Services at randy.wilson@eku.edu or 859-622-8466.

Published on April 10, 2015

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