Sheep the secret weapon in Giant Hogweed battle

Black faced sheep graze on newly sprouting Giant Hogweed near the River Deveron in Aberdeenshire. Picture: Hemedia
Black faced sheep graze on newly sprouting Giant Hogweed near the River Deveron in Aberdeenshire. Picture: Hemedia
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IT is a ferocious weed that can blister and burn unsuspecting victims while also causing havoc in its surrounding environment however the unique genetic make-up of the humble sheep means it may have met its match.

Scots environmentalists have launched an innovative bid to destroy the spread of Giant Hogweed by introducing sheep to decimate the plant before it reaches full maturity.

After 12 years of trying to kill the Giant Hogweeds with chemical spray around the River Deveron in Aberdeenshire, management at the Deveron, Bogie and Isla Rivers Trust have bought in 20 sheep to help battle the Hogweed.

Trust volunteer Robin said: “I noticed there were some fields where sheep graze Giant Hogweed in the early stages when it’s just coming into leaf.

“They tend to graze it up till the end of June. By June the plant starts to grow rapidly and the sap starts to rise - that’s when the animals start saying ‘we don’t like the taste of that so much now’.

“After some research, a university in Denmark found that some goats and black-faced sheep eat it before then with ease because the pigmentation in their skin prevents them from blistering.

“So we’ve bought 20 sheep thanks to some funds from the Scottish Natural Heritage that they’ve given us for this trial.

“We’re going to see what happens and if we do prove that it’s a success after 5-10 years more, areas will be having sheep put in.”