#bignEWEs: How Rescue Donkeys Are Protecting Sheep at the VW Chattanooga Solar Plant

Posted by Chris Ann Lunghino | June 29, 2021

Silicon Ranch’s Regenerative Energy® restores healthy functioning grassland ecosystems. At the VW Chattanooga Solar Plant, with the help of a herd of sheep and a holistic grazing plan, we’re establishing diverse, deep-rooted perennial grasses that are particularly good at drawing down carbon from the air and storing it in the soil, building healthier soil, improving biodiversity, and increasing water quality.

Our regenerative rancher partner, Tyler Menne, employs fifty sheep to restore the land at the VW solar plant while keeping vegetation from shading the solar panels. Menne and three of his employees set up fencing to subdivide the solar farm land into paddocks so that they can manage the sheep movement to mimic wild migrating herds. Under Menne’s careful management and watch, with a goal of avoiding over-grazing and optimizing the recovery time of grazed plants, the sheep roam and graze the land, one paddock at a time.

Menne loves his sheep, but so do predators such as coyotes. To help keep his sheep safe, he recently added two, 12-year old rescue donkeys, Gail and Buddy, to our VW solar land management team.

Donkeys are effective livestock sentinels—a lone donkey is able to protect up to 300 sheep. With their excellent eyesight and hearing, donkeys sense predators easily and early. They can even move their ears to locate the source of a sound. And donkeys are naturally territorial. When they detect an intruder, donkeys let out a loud, “heehaw”, alerting ranchers. They confront intruders, charging, kicking, and biting. Donkeys will fight off a whole pack of predators to save their flock.

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