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Goats, sheep taking care of grass at NASA site

 

By KAITLYN NEFF

Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va.  — At the NASA Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) facility in Fairmont’s Technology Center, there are not just scientists, educational professionals and researchers working hard, but goats and sheep too.

NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation facility utilizes livestock, including different breeds of goats and sheep, to mow the grass on the premises for economic, environmental and safety benefits.
(Times West Virginian photo by Tiffany Towner)

NASA has recently started utilizing livestock to mow the grass on site, and while this is not necessarily a new concept, it is uncommon in today’s age of technology and mechanical advancements.

According to Crothall Facilities Management employee Joseph Irons, these four-legged employees offer many economic, environmental and safety benefits to NASA.

“David Dial, who works for West Virginia University, got interested in this as a form of cost cutting to keep from having to pay so much money for brush hogs and equipment rentals,” Irons said.

“Then NASA got interested because it is safer to have the goats on a steep incline because it is kind of dangerous running mowing machines up there, and then my company, Crothall, got interested because of the source of low-cost eco-friendly fertilizer.”

Dial suggested that NASA contact local farmer Debbie Nosse of Fleece A Flying LLC to acquire the goats and sheep for maintaining the land at NASA.

The goats and sheep are kept by an electrified fence to deliver a shock to predators who might try to get in and to keep the “employees” contained.

Normally, there is a llama to serve as a second line of defense because they are often very active in protecting when threatened, and the llama serves as a teacher, who instructs the goats and sheep on what to eat, but Irons said currently they do not have one.

These “employees” are diverse and include different breeds of rams, sheep, wethers, goats and ram lambs. They move from spot to spot maintaining grass and brush on the premises.

“The staff at NASA has been very involved,” Irons said. “They have a place where they can go out and look at what the sheep are up to that day, and it gives them a stress relief. They can pet the goats, and it’s kind of like having a pet at work. They often take treats out there, so it has been a real benefit for us to have them.”

Irons said he also appreciates how environmentally friendly they are since Crothall no longer uses pesticides to take care of the land.

“They are taking care of it in a more natural way. We didn’t like spraying chemicals and having all that to keep a nice lawn,” Irons said.

According to Irons, the goats and sheep cover about four acres of land on site and are moved around in sections when necessary.

“They have to move them quicker during the fall because the cooler it gets, the more calories they burn, and they eat more. So we kind of use them to make sure they keep the brushy areas down during that time, but through the summer, they are kind of lazy and spend the time on the grass lands closer to the building,” Irons said.

Irons said that the goats and sheep always have everything they need, and they have shown so many benefits for NASA and Crothall.

“They have brought a lot of benefits especially the cost, and it’s much safer,” Irons said. “Also, having the farmer there has been really good at getting the staff involved.”

Email Kaitlyn Neff at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @kneffTWV.

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