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Sheep and goats keep Belgian rail lines clear of weeds
Herds of sheep and goats are playing their part in keeping Belgium's rail lines running smoothly. The network operator, Infrabel, has started using the animals as part of a new scheme to clear the verges of weeds in places that are hard to reach using standard machinery.
The project began this week in Mechelen, where 85 sheep and 15 goats were herded by shepherd Brecht Laukens of Speckbosch, an organisation that runs environmentally friendly grazing projects. They will be used for three weeks at a time, three times a year. The herd are encouraged to eat everything that grows on the verges, including the invasive Japanese knotweed, which grows back and spreads if its roots are not removed.
“My animals are a work instrument, but I’m still attached to them,” Laukens (pictured above with his herd) told Het Laatste Nieuws. “I come by every day to check on everything and to give the animals fresh water; they are not left to their own devices.”
The animals are only being used in places where there is no danger of their being hit by passing trains. Using sheep and goats in this way costs Infrabel about €1,000 a year – much less than employing workers to do the job manually. The project is also being tried out in Dilbeek, just outside Brussels, and will be evaluated after a year.
Photo: Katleen Vastiau/Belga