Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is testing using the animals as a low-cost solution to keep vegetation on airport property under control.
"There are very few things that they turn away," Brian Cash, owner of the appropriately named Ewe-niversally Green service, says to WXIA Channel 11 of Atlanta. "They love poison ivy. They eat blackberries that have thorns. And they eat these things willingly. If they have options they will still select those types of foods."
WXIA: Cheerful chompers apply for airport job
The program began Monday (Sept. 10), and as of Thursday Cash's herd of 100 sheep herd had "eaten through nearly half of the waist high weeds in the test acre lot," WXIA reports.
WXIA notes the Atlanta airport "has about 3,000 acres of raw land it must maintain, to make sure weeds and seedlings don't grow into habitat for birds and other wildlife that could endanger activities at the airport."
"So far I'm liking what I see," Chris Davis, assistant maintenance director for Hartsfield Jackson, says to WXIA.
Still, the airport still must compare the results of the sheep-maintenance test to more traditional methods that include some mix of chemicals, machines and manual labor. The test has been paid for by a private donor, and once it's completed the airport will see if provides a bigger benefit than other methods.
"The cost factor to this is probably the biggest unknown that I have," Davis says.
WXIA says a handful of other airports have turned to sheep for vegetation maintenance. Among those was Seattle, which used the sheep for about a year but ultimately scrapped the idea because the airport had to build too many cages to protect the plants it didn't want to be eaten.
But despite Seattle's move, Chicago could be next on the list to try goats.
AP: O'Hare airport is looking for a few good goats
Fox Chicago reports that "the Chicago Department of Aviation recently put out a bid looking for someone to supply goats to graze on the grass and brush at O'Hare. It also calls for a goat herder." The O'Hare goats would number about 30 and would focus on one "hard to mow" area of airport grounds.
As for Atlanta, the airport says it will take several months to evaluate the results of its goat experiment.
(Copyright © 2012 USA TODAY)