Yes, Susquehanna University has sheep! Currently there are only 13, but all summer long 32 sheep grazed the grass under our solar panels. The University does not own the sheep, but they are rented from a local farm, Owens Farm, which is located in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, just a short distance from the school.
The sheep are a part of Susquehanna University’s increased sustainability efforts. Their ‘job’ is to eat the grass under the solar panels so that lawn mowers and weed eaters do not have to be used, thus limiting our use of fossil fuels. The sheep do an exceptional job and are able to eat much of the grass that grows. The solar farm is about 14 acres in total, but the area has been divided out into smaller pastures so that the sheep can partake in a form of grazing called rotational grazing. The sheep are located in one small pasture at a time to focus their grazing. When the grass is short enough, the group is moved to the next pasture and the process was repeated all summer. The grass of each pasture has sufficiently grown back by the time the sheep get through the cycle.
During the colder winter months, the sheep will be removed from the solar farm, meaning their scheduled time of grazing throughout the year is from April to November. This allows for the sheep to be in the solar farm while the grass is growing its fastest, in the spring and summer months.
The reason there are only currently 13 sheep in the field is because 19 of them were removed last week to return to the Owen’s farm to be bred to give birth to lambs next spring! Some of these lambs will possibly return to Susquehanna University’s sheep flock when they are a little bit older. All of the sheep in the flock are at least a year old for health reasons. Older sheep are less likely to get sick than lambs are.
Next spring, when a large group of sheep return to the solar farm, there will be more sheep than there were this year. Seeing as this was the first year that Susquehanna had sheep, some of the logistics of the whole thing were still being worked out.
I am considered the student shepherd and it is my job to check on the sheep daily and make sure that they are all healthy and happy, have water and enough grass, and to count them all to make sure none are missing. All the photos in this article are photos that I have taken of the actual sheep located out at the solar farm this past summer. I really enjoy being able to work with the sheep and helping to care for them! I love to talk about the sheep and show people videos, so if you see me around campus and are curious about the sheep, just ask!