Brussels Airport deploys sheep to “mow the lawn”

The company that runs Belgium’s busiest airport at Zaventem in Flemish Brabant has enlisted the help of dozens of sheep to keep the grass down on its noise barrier at the rear of the airport in Steenokkerzeel. The use of sheep is not only more eco-friendly than using motorised lawn mowers, but it also stimulates biodiversity at the site. 

Those of you that have driven, cycled or walked past the rear of the airport may well have seen sheep grazing on the noise barrier. Brussels Airport is one of a number of companies and public bodies that have decided to use farm animals (usually sheep or goats) to graze areas of grassland on their sites.

Brussels Airport’s Spokeswoman Anke Fransen told VRT Radio 2 Flemish Brabant that "It would be quicker to run a lawn mower over the noise barrier. However, we have chosen an ecological solution by letting sheep graze the grassland”

"We are doing this to increase biodiversity. If you mow grass, the grass that has been cut stays and covers the ground. Sheep eat the grass and when there is no more grass the ground becomes free for other, rare plants and types of grass. 

Are the sheep afraid of planes?

As those of us that have lived near to an airport will know, aircraft make quite a lot of noise. Doesn’t this frighten the sheep? According to Anke Fransen this is not the case.  

“I was with the sheep today and quite a few planes flew over. The sheep aren’t afraid and aren’t startled by the noise. What is important to them is that they have enough food and that the food is tasty. Our noise barrier is a kind of hill and sheep like grazing on hills so in fact they like being there.

The sheep will remain at the airport for another three weeks and will return to the airport for a second time in the autumn.