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  #1  
Old 05-25-2010, 07:33 PM
Mangosteen Mangosteen is offline
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Sheep as lawn mowers. What's the down side?

Here's an article on sheep being used as "lawnmowers". Any downsides they might have missed? I'm thinking of using them on my 3 acres in Hawaii.




Imagine owning a lawnmower that makes its own blades, moves itself around the lawn, requires no gasoline (it runs on grass), makes very little noise, replaces itself every year or so, and you can eat it as a delicious high protein food. All you need to provide is a fence around the lawn, a small shed, some water, and mineral supplements. Sound like a crazy fantasy? If you have some land with grass on it, and you can afford to put a fence around it, tropical hair sheep are a viable option.

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Last edited by Ellen Cherry; 05-26-2010 at 08:09 AM.. Reason: Rule against posting whole articles, and without attribution
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  #2  
Old 05-25-2010, 07:52 PM
Crafter_Man Crafter_Man is offline
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Sheep poop.
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Old 05-25-2010, 07:57 PM
Jake Jones Jake Jones is offline
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Sheep shit? Sheep maintenance?

Some people actually like to walk around and do stuff on their lawn, or don't care to maintain sheep. Could be both. If all you want is turf you don't have to care for, I think you're better off with artificial turf than sheep.
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Old 05-25-2010, 08:21 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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You aren't the first person to think of that by many hundreds of years. Sheep do make good lawn mowers but not all people want to be amateur farmers and would spend more money having the sheep than they would having the lawn professionally cut by a landscaping service. If you like holistic land management, they can be great but they require a lot more upkeep and hassle than a new low-end John Deere lawn tractor. A lot of people don't have a .22 handy to pop one in the head when the time comes and Americans don't eat mutton as a general rule so you have to slaughter them when they are their most precious to get good meat.

Don't get me wrong, it is a great idea for some people but you have to be willing to deal with the whole life-cycle to make something like this work including having them sheared and dealing with predators plus finding a way to use the manure. Sheep are about the dumbest mammals ever invented as well (intelligent design my ass). You may need a trained border collie just to keep them in-line and that brings on some serious cost and challenges of its own. Their pens smell like shit as well (literally).

You don't need to single out sheep. There are a bunch of things like that some people could do but just don't want to because they don't want to run a small-scale farm. It is hard work that requires lots of knowledge and hassle plus expense. They aren't just cheap lawnmowers with meat benefits.

I personally prefer goats. They will eat your rose bushes and everything else and they are almost as dumb but they have personality and personality goes a long way. I miss William, the dumb brown goat who watched Wonder Woman with me on the couch when I was little. Try getting a sheep to do that. It would just stare blankly at the lawn scenes and never look up to notice the cleavage.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 05-25-2010 at 08:24 PM..
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  #5  
Old 05-25-2010, 08:39 PM
Snowboarder Bo Snowboarder Bo is offline
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Originally Posted by Mangosteen View Post
Here's an article on sheep being used as "lawnmowers". Any downsides they might have missed? I'm thinking of using them on my 3 acres in Hawaii.
If I remember right, Hal lives in California, so other than the sheepshit, you should be okay.
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  #6  
Old 05-25-2010, 08:45 PM
Duke Duke is offline
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Originally Posted by Crafter_Man View Post
Sheep poop.
Done in one.

Also, sheep are amazingly stupid animals. I had a friend in the UK who was studying to be a vet. She said that sheep are so stupid, they don't even recognize their own lambs after they're born, so the farmers have to make sure that the lambs get to know who their parents are. After one birthing session, my friend was relieved to see mama sheep purposefully walking towards her newborn lamb.

Then mama sheep peed all over her lamb's head.
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  #7  
Old 05-25-2010, 08:47 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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It seems like a good idea, but I can't imagine it being less time consuming or expensive to care for a half dozen sheep than to mow three acres yourself.
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Old 05-25-2010, 09:04 PM
Gatopescado Gatopescado is offline
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They are noisy, smelly and eat everything, even the stuff you don't want them to. If you have anything nice growing, you need to fence it off. Also, a .22 ain't the right way to put a sheep down. Ask me how I know this......

And have you ever put up 3 acres of fence? Or paid for it? Makes a lawnmower and gas seem cheap. Ever shear a sheep?

Did I mention the noise and smell?

Those are a couple downsides. But they do eat the weeds efficiently. We take two from the main pen and stick em in a 6 x 6 enclosure and we move it 2 or 3 times a day. Wipe them weeds out. But it takes a long time to cover 2 acres like this.
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Old 05-25-2010, 09:06 PM
Beware of Doug Beware of Doug is offline
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Less than precise trimming. That and the whole sheep shit thing.
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Old 05-25-2010, 09:07 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Originally Posted by Gatopescado View Post
They are noisy, smelly and eat everything, even the stuff you don't want them to. If you have anything nice growing, you need to fence it off. Also, a .22 ain't the right way to put a sheep down. Ask me how I know this......
You're a sheep?
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  #11  
Old 05-25-2010, 09:10 PM
Gatopescado Gatopescado is offline
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You're a sheep?
Nope. Had to "take care" of a injured, suffering ram. Took several .22 shots. Not pretty.
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  #12  
Old 05-25-2010, 09:22 PM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is offline
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We once had a sheep for lawn trimming, and the day after it had completed its task and we returned it to the farmer, our house burned down.

Make of that what you will.
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  #13  
Old 05-26-2010, 12:33 AM
Omar Little Omar Little is offline
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I heard somewhere that sheep eat the roots of the grass, making it necessary to reseed your lawn. Isn't that why the cattle ranchers shot and killed the sheep herders on the range, back in the 1800's?
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  #14  
Old 05-26-2010, 01:16 AM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
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As a vegetarian, the idea of killing sheep ever, let alone regularly, fills me with horror and sadness. So that's a huge downside.
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  #15  
Old 05-26-2010, 02:31 AM
BigBertha BigBertha is offline
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Well, the upside is they'll never cut your foot off while using them!
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  #16  
Old 05-26-2010, 05:02 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Imho, think about it like this: would you use a dog as a garbage disposal? It's cheaper, takes care of itself, and uses less energy. It probably also lasts longer. But, as you can imagine, there are many other things you have to do to properly take care of a dog. In the long run, even though you pay more for the garbage disposal up front, you'll spend less.

But, for 3 acres of grassland, I can see how you would want to avoid using a lawnmower. But, would it really be necessary to cut the grass as though it were a lawn?
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  #17  
Old 05-26-2010, 07:03 AM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is online now
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I know nothing about sheep as such, but my father-in-law keeps goats. He spends a lot of effort on them - it definitely wouldn't be worth it if he didn't also enjoy it. Ostensibly they're kept for meat - in fact, their life is more like "pets which, tangentially, also happen to get eaten in the end". I don't know if they would stay healthy on a diet of just grass, but in fact they get oats every day too, morning and night. When my inlaws are out of town, they always get a neighbor to look after the goats, and feed them.

They don't get sick very often, but they do sometimes. Also they sometimes get stuck in things and hurt themselves and need to be rescued. A former goat strangled herself to death on a length of chain while struggling to get unstuck from a bush. Goats are smarter than sheep, but still fairly stupid. They need an electric fence to keep them out of the veggie garden, and they ringbark any tree that's within the goat area and eat their leaves to a height of five feet or so.

WARNING: PEOPLE WITHOUT STRONG STOMACHS MAY WANT TO STOP READING HERE.

My father-in-law slaughters his goats himself, with his rifle, and butchers them. I have helped him dismember a goat one time. Skinning and jointing a goat is a surprisingly skilled task - you have to get it done while the goat is still warm, or the fat congeals making the skin ten times harder to get off. Also it smells. There are stomach contents to be dealt with (both ends) and you need a pretty sharp knife to hack the various inside bits apart. Also a nice big freezer.

One plus to goats (in our situation) - they are a great small-child fascinator. Last time we visited the in-laws we barely saw our eldest daughter for three days (now that she can get in and out of the paddock by herself). And they do keep the grass short. They don't eat all the weeds though - my father-in-law still has to dig cape-weed out of the paddock with a mattock. (And THEN they eat it - go figure)
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  #18  
Old 05-26-2010, 08:12 AM
Ellen Cherry Ellen Cherry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangosteen View Post
Here's an article on sheep being used as "lawnmowers". Any downsides they might have missed? I'm thinking of using them on my 3 acres in Hawaii.




Imagine owning a lawnmower that makes its own blades, moves itself around the lawn, requires no gasoline (it runs on grass), makes very little noise, replaces itself every year or so, and you can eat it as a delicious high protein food. All you need to provide is a fence around the lawn, a small shed, some water, and mineral supplements. Sound like a crazy fantasy? If you have some land with grass on it, and you can afford to put a fence around it, tropical hair sheep are a viable option.
Mangosteen, please do not post articles in their entirety. I refer you to this post in the registration agreement which says, in part:

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You agree not to post any copyrighted material unless the copyright is owned by you or by the operator of the SDMB, except as permitted by the "fair use" provisions of the U.S. copyright laws (in general this means brief excerpts only). You agree to abide by the wishes of the board moderators in interpreting and enforcing these rules. Refusal to cooperate with board moderators or to abide by these rules is grounds for revocation of your posting privileges.
I encourage you to post a link to the article so that others may read it, if you wish.

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  #19  
Old 05-26-2010, 08:22 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Imho, think about it like this: would you use a dog as a garbage disposal? It's cheaper, takes care of itself, and uses less energy. It probably also lasts longer.
Plus you can eat it when it gets old!
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  #20  
Old 05-26-2010, 08:32 AM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Would three acres be enough for the sheep? I mean by the time they finish with one field, has enough grass grown elsewhere to feed them?
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  #21  
Old 05-26-2010, 08:54 AM
Swallowed My Cellphone Swallowed My Cellphone is offline
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As a vegetarian, the idea of killing sheep ever, let alone regularly, fills me with horror and sadness. So that's a huge downside.
My buddy has a hobby farm. He just sends his livestock off to a service that will take care of the ghastliness for him. Birds get on the bus, butterballs come back. Still, even if I did eat meat, I can't imagine eating a critter I'd raised since birth.

But other problems with sheep may be in local by-laws For example, here we can't have livestock of any kind within the city limits. I found this factoid when someone on the boards wondered about riding a horse to and from work here in the city.

In any case, sheep are loud and smelly.

Last edited by Swallowed My Cellphone; 05-26-2010 at 08:54 AM..
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  #22  
Old 05-26-2010, 08:59 AM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is online now
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Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
Would three acres be enough for the sheep? I mean by the time they finish with one field, has enough grass grown elsewhere to feed them?
The first decent cite off google suggests 2-3 sheep per acre
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  #23  
Old 05-26-2010, 09:00 AM
lost4life lost4life is offline
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I think the main downside would be all the bestiality jokes, and people making bad puns with the word "ewe".
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  #24  
Old 05-26-2010, 09:00 AM
Jimson Jim Jimson Jim is offline
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My parents have about 30 head of sheep on 80 acres in the middle of Ohio. 1.5 acres is a nice rolling park like lawn, that my mother mows on the John Deere. Why would she do that if they have sheep. Because they make terrible lawn mowers. Downsides:
  • They over graze; - this will kill areas of your lawn.
  • They don't eat the grass down to the same length- this will make your lawn look really sloppy.
  • Their poop may be good for the lawn but their urine can burn the grass
  • You'll need a continuous fence around your property - Very expense
  • They require upkeep-at least yearly vet check ups - Vet bills.
  • In more temperate climates they need yearly sheering - another cost.
  • They will need food supplements - more money
  • Unless you buy only ewes you'll need to castrate the males - you'll be paying someone to do this.
  • Sheep are easy prey for any loose dog, coyote or other predator. So you'll need to be prepared to replace them and bury the remains when killed or get a predator control dog - more money and possibly vet bills and food for the dog.
  • Killing and eating them requires butchering skills you don't posses you'll have to pay someone else for that - more money and possibly some meat fit only for stew.
  • If you want to try it on your own, aside from the unpleasantness mentioned above, it maybe illegal in your area to butcher outside of a government certified facility.
  • Even if you don't intend to kill them for the meat at some point you're going to need to put them down due to age or injury. You're going to want to pay a vet for this. Don't think you can just dispatch this pet with no qualms. It's very hard to kill something you've raised from it's earliest days. But if you're going to shoot a sheep, use at least a .32 preferably a .38 with a ball round. They may be domesticated but they still have the thick skulls of their wild cousins.
  • Shooting anything in the head is messy. Cleaning that mess up from your yard or field so it doesn't attract predators or carrion birds is down right traumatic.
  • Killing a domesticated animal in this fashion may be against the law in your area.
  • Digging a hole deep enough to bury a sheep requires several hours of back breaking work with a shovel; renting a back hoe or buying an attachment for your tractor. You will need to bury it at least 4 feet deep to prevent it from being dug up. This may be hard depending on the local geology.
Considering all these financial and possibly emotional costs it is cheaper to buy a good riding mower or just pay someone.

Just for clarification my folks raise sheep for wool (sold to local hand spinners), the meat (we send them to a local slaughter house) but mostly as training aides for my parents kennel of predator control dogs. They raise Great Pyrenees
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Old 05-26-2010, 09:02 AM
Freudian Slit Freudian Slit is online now
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Originally Posted by Duke View Post
Done in one.

Also, sheep are amazingly stupid animals. I had a friend in the UK who was studying to be a vet. She said that sheep are so stupid, they don't even recognize their own lambs after they're born, so the farmers have to make sure that the lambs get to know who their parents are. After one birthing session, my friend was relieved to see mama sheep purposefully walking towards her newborn lamb.

Then mama sheep peed all over her lamb's head.
If they hadn't been domesticated, how would they recognize their own babies, then? Also, why would they really even have to? Like, why would they have to walk towards their babies--once it gives birth, doesn't the lamb just stay with it?

Last edited by Freudian Slit; 05-26-2010 at 09:02 AM..
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  #26  
Old 05-26-2010, 09:33 AM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
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Sheep have been selectively bred for stupidity. Wild sheep aren't nearly as dumb as domestic sheep.
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  #27  
Old 05-26-2010, 09:33 AM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
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If they hadn't been domesticated, how would they recognize their own babies, then? Also, why would they really even have to? Like, why would they have to walk towards their babies--once it gives birth, doesn't the lamb just stay with it?
I suspect the wild ones are a little smarter in this respect - they'd have to be at least somewhat successful in rearing their own young, versus domesticated where you can always bottle-feed the lamb of a rock-stupid ewe or push the two of them together until momma gets the idea.

As for walking to the baby, I would guess (at first, certainly) the ewe is the one who wandered off blithely after giving birth, while the lamb sat there confused and alone.
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  #28  
Old 05-26-2010, 09:39 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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If you had cattle to accomplish the task, they would be lawn mooers.
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  #29  
Old 05-26-2010, 09:45 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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Several people have mentioned shooting the animals to kill them... is that how it's normally done in the US, or normally done by farmers in the US? In Spain both slaughterhouses and small operations (illegal now, but I did get to go hog-butchering a couple times when I was a wee lass and I've killed rabbits and chickens, again back when it was legal) involve blades.

As for male lambs, why castrate them when you can eat them? Most baby animals (of any species) that you eat in Spain, France or Italy are males.

Last edited by Nava; 05-26-2010 at 09:47 AM..
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  #30  
Old 05-26-2010, 09:51 AM
Yllaria Yllaria is offline
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I heard somewhere that sheep eat the roots of the grass, making it necessary to reseed your lawn. Isn't that why the cattle ranchers shot and killed the sheep herders on the range, back in the 1800's?
Both sheep and cattle can overgraze an area, which kills the grass. Sheep don't go after the roots particularly. I've heard that the cattle ranchers claimed otherwise during the range wars, but if so it was a ducks' quacks don't echo thing.
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  #31  
Old 05-26-2010, 10:02 AM
Ellen Cherry Ellen Cherry is offline
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Here is my limited knowledge of how sheep graze, based on an article I wrote 20 years ago (how's that for a cite? )

Sheep were touted as cheap to graze on the same pasture you graze cattle on because they eat the grass closer to the ground. I don't remember roots being mentioned at all. The theory was, the cows (with their bigger lips, I guess) can only munch so low, then you run some sheep in and they'll eat it down even lower. So they essentially graze on the same grass.

Caveat: As I said this article was done 20 years ago and I haven't read what I wrote lately, so the information could be baaaaaad.
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  #32  
Old 05-26-2010, 10:11 AM
levdrakon levdrakon is offline
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I think your best bet is to find someone who will rent you a few of their sheep.

Can't remember where I saw it, but I think it was on TV. Not sure if it was the US, or some other country, but some entrepreneurial types started a service where they'd bring the sheep to you, let them graze your lawn down, then bring them back to the farm. It's win-win; the sheep get free food, and you don't have to handle all the extra husbandry stuff.

Any chance of something like that in the OP's area?
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  #33  
Old 05-26-2010, 10:14 AM
Green Bean Green Bean is offline
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If I remember right, Hal lives in California, so other than the sheepshit, you should be okay.
Hal lives in New Jersey, so the sheep will be even safer.
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Old 05-26-2010, 10:36 AM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
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  #35  
Old 05-26-2010, 10:37 AM
BigBertha BigBertha is offline
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Birds get on the bus, butterballs come back.
This sounds so catchy.
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  #36  
Old 05-26-2010, 10:49 AM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
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Originally Posted by Swallowed My Cellphone View Post
Birds get on the bus, butterballs come back.
This sounds so catchy.
Sounds like some sort of avian Thunderdome.


Then again, this seems kinda fitting:

Escapin' through the lily fields
I came across an empty space
It trembled and exploded
Left a bus stop in its place
The bus came by and I got on
That's when it all began
There was cowboy Neal
At the wheel
Of a bus to never-ever land...
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Old 05-26-2010, 11:18 AM
JThunder JThunder is offline
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I think the main downside would be all the bestiality jokes, and people making bad puns with the word "ewe".
That would never happen.
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  #38  
Old 05-26-2010, 11:37 AM
Valgard Valgard is offline
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I think your best bet is to find someone who will rent you a few of their sheep.

Can't remember where I saw it, but I think it was on TV. Not sure if it was the US, or some other country, but some entrepreneurial types started a service where they'd bring the sheep to you, let them graze your lawn down, then bring them back to the farm. It's win-win; the sheep get free food, and you don't have to handle all the extra husbandry stuff.

Any chance of something like that in the OP's area?
There's a goat-rental service here in the Bay Area - they use them up in the hills where the terrain doesn't allow for a lawnmower and there's all kinds of crap like thistles and poison oak growing. They string electric fencing around, let the goats go and in a few days everything is clipped down neatly and the goats are happy (except when some a-hole decided it'd be fun to drive by and shoot at them).

Regarding sheep stupidity - when I was in NZ (where sheep outnumber humans) I hung out with a professional sheep-musterer and he said that sheep are really much smarter than people think. He worked with "free grazing" sheep though - they let them roam over a relatively large area and he and his dogs are dropped off backcountry via helicopter to bring them in to the mustering station. Maybe they're a bit sharper than those kept penned up at a station all the time.
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  #39  
Old 05-26-2010, 01:04 PM
BlinkingDuck BlinkingDuck is offline
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My dad used to say cows were smarter than sheep - If a cow walked into water until the water covered his nose a cow would turn back. A sheep would drown.

That's pretty stupid (if true).
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  #40  
Old 05-26-2010, 01:36 PM
Smeghead Smeghead is offline
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There is, of course, no down side to a sheep. You get down off a duck.
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  #41  
Old 05-26-2010, 01:44 PM
Duke Duke is offline
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Sheep have been selectively bred for stupidity.
And, as my friend the vet would no doubt agree, they did a bit too well at that.
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  #42  
Old 05-26-2010, 01:46 PM
Skammer Skammer is offline
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There is, of course, no down side to a sheep. You get down off a duck.
*applause*
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  #43  
Old 05-26-2010, 02:19 PM
gaffa gaffa is offline
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Done in one.

Also, sheep are amazingly stupid animals. I had a friend in the UK who was studying to be a vet. She said that sheep are so stupid, they don't even recognize their own lambs after they're born, so the farmers have to make sure that the lambs get to know who their parents are. After one birthing session, my friend was relieved to see mama sheep purposefully walking towards her newborn lamb.

Then mama sheep peed all over her lamb's head.
Sounds like she was marking it with her scent.
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  #44  
Old 05-26-2010, 04:13 PM
Snowboarder Bo Snowboarder Bo is offline
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If you had cattle to accomplish the task, they would be lawn mooers.
<ding!> <ding!> <ding!>

We have a winnnahhhhh!
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  #45  
Old 05-26-2010, 07:04 PM
Sue Duhnym Sue Duhnym is offline
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Well, I can tell you that they will get stuck inside your fence, not be able to get out, eat your roses to nubs, fall into the pool, swim circles in the deep end and crap all over your patio while your kids chase them all over the yard. Then a momma sheep will flee, leaving her lamb with it's head stuck in your fence.

At least that's what happened to me last year with the ones hired by the HOA to clear the hillside.

/wishes I had video
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  #46  
Old 05-26-2010, 07:11 PM
levdrakon levdrakon is offline
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Well, I can tell you that they will get stuck inside your fence, not be able to get out, eat your roses to nubs, fall into the pool, swim circles in the deep end and crap all over your patio while your kids chase them all over the yard. Then a momma sheep will flee, leaving her lamb with it's head stuck in your fence.

At least that's what happened to me last year with the ones hired by the HOA to clear the hillside.

/wishes I had video
That almost seems worth it though. Life is otherwise so dull sometimes.
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  #47  
Old 05-26-2010, 07:19 PM
Sue Duhnym Sue Duhnym is offline
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Originally Posted by levdrakon View Post
That almost seems worth it though. Life is otherwise so dull sometimes.
Well, it certainly was funny afterwards. Especially when I asked my daughter why she had been barking and she replied, "I was pretending to be a sheepdog."
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  #48  
Old 05-26-2010, 08:10 PM
maplekiwi maplekiwi is offline
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Join Date: May 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sue Duhnym View Post
Well, I can tell you that they will get stuck inside your fence, not be able to get out, eat your roses to nubs, fall into the pool, swim circles in the deep end and crap all over your patio while your kids chase them all over the yard. Then a momma sheep will flee, leaving her lamb with it's head stuck in your fence.

At least that's what happened to me last year with the ones hired by the HOA to clear the hillside.

/wishes I had video
That is what will happen. Also your lawn will be eaten at uneven levels - so if appearances bother you that will a down side.

& if you want to go away you'll have to arrange for someone to keep an eye on them.

Someone further up mentioned that goats are nearly as dumb. We've owned 2 & looked after a third & I haven't found that. But I also found they weren't that keen on eating grass. Rose bushes & any other valued plants are their favoured diet. & they can be really expert escape artists - which won't endear you to your neighbours.
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  #49  
Old 05-26-2010, 09:13 PM
rowrrbazzle rowrrbazzle is offline
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Join Date: Jul 1999
You can't knit a sweater from a lawnmower. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSiZPEUfFnM
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  #50  
Old 05-26-2010, 09:36 PM
HepToTheJive HepToTheJive is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2009
Lived on a sheep farm for a little while...I think it's going to be a lot more trouble then it's worth for you. There is a lot to it, as others have mentioned.

On a similar note I hope none of you ever have to scoop a dead lamb into a bucket and carry it a quarter mile up to the compost pile.
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