Edmonton

Cold Lake air force base recruits army of animal weed-whackers

In a battle against unwelcome weeds, an Alberta air force base is recruiting a small army of cloven-hoofed troops.

Weed-eating goats and sheep to chomp around the airfield

The Department of National Defence is looking to hire a new herd of goats and sheep to graze at CFB Cold Lake. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

In a battle against unwelcome weeds, an Alberta air force base is recruiting a small army of cloven-hoofed troops.

The Department of National Defence is looking to hire a new battalion of sheep and goats.

According to an unusual tender that closed to bids on Monday, CFB Cold Lake 4 Wing Military Base has some steep and swampy terrain that is best managed by civilians of the animal variety.

They can seek and destroy unwanted weeds like nothing else, said Capt. Mathew Strong, a public affairs officer with 1 Canadian Air Division. 

"They were finding that the civilian workers who conduct this work at the base were having to use hand tools, and like trimmers, and it was taking a long time, and it was actually kind of dangerous for them," Strong said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.  

"When they got the idea to use goats and sheep or livestock, it worked out rather well. It's a completely safe operation for the livestock and it removes some of the risk for our workers." 

'Much more efficient'

Strong said goats and sheep were first deployed at the base three years ago and have been lean, green eating machines for the base ever since. 

"They're much more efficient and far more effective too, because they can get into those tight spaces, in between buildings and down into ditches where it's a little harder to get with your weed whacker." 

The winning contractor will have to supply and deliver a herd of 250 animals, with at least 70 per cent of them goats. They will spend their days chewing the grounds and their nights in a paddock. Their commanding shepherd will be welcome to park a trailer nearby. 

The contract will be awarded soon with the animals set to start munching on an as-needed basis by July 12.

"It's really just to keep the vegetation low and it prevents other animals from taking up residence in the location," Strong said. "And that's always the name of the game in an airfield like Cold Lake." 

With files from Pippa Reed

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