I started mowing the lawn with sheep by accident. My lawnmower broke down and the grass was getting out of hand, so I set up electric net fencing around the yard and brought a few sheep out of the pasture to do the job for me while I scrounged together money for the lawnmower repair.

The result surprised me. Not only did the sheep do their job, but they did their job perfectly. Each stem was nibbled down to almost exactly the same length, giving my lawn a neat, uniform cut that rivaled my lawn mower for efficiency. The net fencing made it possible to rotate them around the yard while also navigating and edging my flower beds, and despite the amused and slightly deprecating comments of my neighbors, I was hooked on my new lawn mowers.

The Benefits of Mowing with Sheep

Mowing your lawn with sheep isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but if you already happen to have sheep and electric net fencing, then it is certainly something to consider for a few reasons.

Sheep are like a lawn care multi-tool. As they cut your grass, they also aerate your lawn with their hooves and spread fertilizer in the form of urine and manure. Sheep don’t require gasoline and oil changes, and although they are certainly not maintenance-free, grass-fed sheep are a sustainable alternative to your riding mower.

The best part about mowing your lawn with sheep, aside from the inevitable conversation starter, is that the end product gives you a fresh lawn and a nice rack of lamb to throw on the grill. Take a leaf out of President Woodrow Wilson’s book and save yourself a few dollars on lawn maintenance by letting your sheep, or a friend's sheep, graze down your lawn.

The Drawbacks of Mowing with Sheep

Don’t throw away your lawn mower just yet. There are a few things to consider before switching to a sheep mowing system. The most important, of course, is the question of the sheep themselves. If you already have sheep, then your lawn is just one more pasture to rotate through. If you do not own sheep, however, you have a great deal to learn and consider before buying a flock.

Assuming you either own or have access to sheep, there are some practical problems to keeping sheep in your yard that need to be addressed.

1. Pets. Dogs and sheep do not always mix. If your dogs do not respect net electric fences, then they are in for a few unpleasant surprises. Dogs also enjoy snacking on sheep droppings and rolling in poop, which can be off-putting for owners.

2. Fencing. Net fence is the best way to mow with sheep, but this type of fencing does not offer the same protection from predators as a perimeter fence. If your yard borders a busy road, you definitely want to be home while your sheep are mowing, just to be on the safe side, and make sure to test your fence for charge before putting your sheep in.

3. Toxicity. You may also need to change up your lawn maintenance routine. Pesticides and herbicides can be dangerous for your sheep. As a general rule of thumb, the only Round-Up I want in my sheep grazing system is the sort I can do with a bucket of grain or a border collie – not a toxic chemical.

4. Zoning. Public response to your venture will be varied. Some of your friends and neighbors will laugh and shake their heads, others will be overly enthusiastic, and the inevitable sour puss will look into the zoning regulations in your area to see if you have violated anything. This means that you need to look up the regulations first, just to make sure you can actually have sheep in your neighborhood in the first place

How To Mow Your Lawn with Sheep

If the idea of your dogs eating sheep poop and abolishing your pesticide regimen doesn’t bother you, congratulations. You are close to confirming your loved one’s suspicions about your sheep problem.

Mowing with sheep is simple. You will need an electric net fence and a way to charge it, several sheep, and a water supply. The number of sheep depends on the size of your yard and the amount of fencing you have available. I have found that intensive rotational grazing works best for lawns. For a small lawn, this could mean that you can fence off half of your lawn for one day (or less), and then graze the other half the next day. Larger lawns take longer. I mowed my lawn, which was roughly a half acre, with four sheep over a period of several days and two 100-foot fences. I could also have shortened the time by using more sheep.

Each yard is a little different. Start off with a small section of yard and a few sheep and see how long it takes them to eat it down to the length you desire. Then, fence off your lawn in sections and work your way through until it is all trimmed. If you have a really large yard, you may need more sheep to get through it in a timely manner or else you may find yourself with a patchwork effect that stands out on Google Earth as a bit of an eyesore.

I use sheep to mow my lawn, but I also have a pasture with a rich mix of grasses where the sheep spend the majority of their time. Your lawn might not be enough to support your sheep full-time, so make sure to plan your rotations according to your flock's nutritional needs.

Mowing with sheep is a great way to put your flock to work while saving you time and money on lawn maintenance. Give it a try this summer and let us know how it worked out in the comment section below.