Sheep near the tracks in Herve, Belgium, source: Infrabel

Sheep regulate vegetation along tracks in Belgium

Belgian rail infrastructure manager Infrabel is carrying out an extraordinary experiment. It uses sheep and goats for regulating vegetation along the tracks. The animals help the railway company to remove weeds at the hard-to-reach places.

The exceptional contractors work for Infrabel in Wallonia. 20 sheep of the Charmoise breed are regulating vegetation along the tracks of the HSL 3 high-speed line that runs from Liège to the German border. Currently, they are working on the section, which is located in the municipality of Herve. “This operation is in line with our ambition to limit our impact on the environment as much as possible and to establish ecological partnerships. An initiative that we hope will be followed by other shepherds. Because it is certainly a win-win-win: for the shepherd, for Infrabel and for the environment,” the Belgian rail infrastructure manager stated.

Sheep and goats help Infrabel to manage vegetation along the tracks in Mechelen, source: Infrabel

Goats as well

For Wallonia, it is the first experience when sheep were employed for maintenance operations of the railway network. Meanwhile, Infrabel has already tested the animals in Flanders, another part of Belgium. In summer 2018 the country’s rail infrastructure manager used 85 sheep and 15 goats for grazing weeds near the tracks in the municipalities of Mechelen and Dilbeek. During the trials, the herd of 100 animals was controlled by a shepherd and two dogs and stayed at one site for two weeks. Afterwards, they moved to another place. Each location was demarcated with fence.

Environmental strategy

The mentioned tests are in line with Infrabel’s environmental strategy, which includes the usage of new ecological solutions. In 2018 the rail infrastructure manager evaluated positively the work of sheep and goats, especially at the hard-to-reach places. “Thanks to our environmental policy, we can provide maximum protection for the fauna and flora along the tracks,” Infrabel stated. It is worth to remind that the several airports around the world. Chicago O’Hare International Airport in the United States, for instance, has been using a herd of 30 animals including sheep, goats and a donkey to regulate vegetation on the west side of the airfield.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

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