BURRILLVILLE – Russ Jennings, 44, of Pascoag, said the concept for Lambscaping, his business that provides sheep and goats to eat brush on customers’ properties, was inspired by the fact that he hated mowing the lawn and landscaping his three acre property.
“Every year it’s a constant battle with grass and brush,” Jennings said. “It comes back every year. Then I noticed my neighbor up the street with sheep is never on a lawnmower, and his pastures and fields are lush.”
So Jennings called the town and asked if he could have two sheep, which was approved, he said.
“Then someone offered me goats and a ewe,” he said. “Next thing you know I have eight livestock and some ducks. The town said ‘wait.'”
That’s when Jennings went through the legal process to get his property declared a 5S zoned farm, he said.
“Everyone likes farms in theory,” he said. “They love them when their kids are hand feeding a baby goat with a bottle. But when there’s animal smell blowing into your barbecue …”
His farm’s fate secure, Jennings heard about landscaping by farm animals and thought he would give it a try, he said. It was just after Covid lockdown, and Jennings, a family portrait photographer, had found himself without a job, he said.
For a while he hired drivers with a truck and trailer to transport his animals to work sites, but this year he has his own. His services are booked a month out, and business is steady, he said.
The way Lambscaping works, said Jennings, is customers rent his goats and sheep by the week.
“People reach out because they have a unique problem and need a solution,” he said.
Jennings sets up an electric fence perimeter, and his animals live inside the fence while he monitors them twice daily, he said.
“The secret is how long do you leave them there. They will eat their favorite things and leave the rest,” Jennings said. “It’s like if you give a rabbit a mixed salad bag, you’ll find out their favorites right away.”
The trick, he said, is to put them into a smaller pen. “Then they have to eat everything,” he said.
This “managed intensive grazing” is beneficial for both the animals and humans, Jennings said. “It’s good for the animals because they’re going have fresh new food every day. … Normally livestock is all crowded together, but this way they’re moving every day. It keeps parasites down and health problems down and there’s less of a need for medicine.”
Plus the goats especially enjoy the challenge of steep terrain, he said.
“They love the different terrain. I have some up on this incredibly steep hill, you could never get a machine up there to clear it, but the goats think it’s a lot of fun,” Jennings said.
Steep terrain is one example of the types of specific problems that Lambscaping can target,” he said.
“I’m not trying to compete with traditional landscaping,” Jennings said. “I’m expensive.”
Besides steep and inaccessible areas, muddy and wet areas and stone walls that need to be cleaned are other potential targets for Lambscaping. “I also have customers who are deathly allergic to poison ivy. The animals will clear that thoroughly,” he said.
Jennings works with his clients about their overall plan for the cleared areas, he said. “All [the animals] do is remove above the ground,” he said. “We talk about replacing with native plants or fresh grass seed.”
Jennings uses a mixture of goats and sheep because the, “complementary species,” get along and together they, “lick the plate clean,” he said.
He would love to have a bigger farm someday, but for now he’s at status quo, he said.
The former Texan who grew up on a horse farm said he loves his job.
“I love it. I love being out in the field. It brings me incredible happiness,” he said. “They all have names. I enjoy being a shepherd and making a difference in the modern world.”
“I’m just really glad there’s a lot of people interested in a carbon-friendly way of doing things and making the world a better place,” he said. “Lots of people think like that and that makes me really happy.”