Grazing animals such as goats, horses or cattle can munch on your lawn. If your lawn is properly fed, these animals can 'mow' it for free!
Image: Bailey Mahon / Unsplash
Looking for a lawnmower for your garden? How about abandoning the electrical equipment and renting a goat or a sheep instead? No, this is not a joke. Some companies in France are now offering this unusual option, in order to revive an ancestral agricultural practice.
On the "Allovoisins" website, don't be surprised if you come across this kind of ad: "looking for sheep for eco-friendly lawn mowing." An unusual technique admittedly, but it's actually downright practical. French companies such as "Une ferme chez vous" or "Greensheep" have even decided to get into this "business" in their own right.
Indeed, grazing animals such as goats, horses or cattle can munch on your lawn. If your lawn is properly fed, these animals can 'mow' it for free! The age-old technique known in French as écopâturage, meaning eco-pastoralism or eco-grazing, has largely disappeared and been replaced by electrical machinery, but it's beginning to make a comeback in some regions.
And for a good reason: the entirely natural process makes it possible to maintain a green space without having to use pesticides. Furthermore it gives animals a green space and even a means of survival. This is exactly the objective of the association "Les Tondeuses sur Pattes," based in Bearn in the Pyrenees, which rescues donkeys and sheep destined for the slaughterhouse.
At the same time, these flourishing businesses are providing some solutions to ethical issues, particularly in terms of animal welfare. As the site "Les Pâturages du littoral" points out: "talking about renting sheep seems to indicate that it is possible to place animals in a space and that they will fend for themselves. But this is simply not the reality: you have to visit the sites regularly, manage the hay and straw, provide care if necessary, and clean the water troughs. Managing sheep requires expertise and know-how, and that is the whole point of working with an eco-grazing professional," the company's founders explain on their website. Rather than "rentals," they prefer to speak of "green space maintenance services."
This is also the niche of GreenSheep, which conducts a preliminary study of the land to ensure the absence of any products that could be toxic for the sheep and provides fencing, shelter, and animal care by a local shepherd.