The Vehkalampi Park in Kortepohja, Jyväskylä, will become the home of 60 sheep for the summer. The main task of the sheep is to eat the Himalayan balsam in the park, which is classified as a harmful non-native species.

The experiment is part of the five-year Viekas LIFE - project, which aims to map, combat and spread information about the damage caused by harmful non-native species. The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation coordinates the project. The total budget for the project is 2 473 531 euros, of which 60% is EU LIFE-funded. The sheep will arrive to Vehkalampi as soon as the pastures are ready. The project investigates how the Himalayan balsam fairs in the sheep pastures and whether the sheep can root it out completely. The idea of sheep as weeders was formed when the Himalayan balsam was noticed to gradually decrease from the sheep pastures of Jyväskylä.

- This project is the reason why the Vehkalampi Park has not been cleaned earlier. The Himalayan balsam has been purposefully given time to grow in the area for experimentation, says Tarja Ylitalo, maintenance horticulturist of The City of Jyväskylä.

Himalayan balsam takes up living space from other plants

The spread of Himalayan balsam is based on rapid growth and suppression of other plants. In addition, the seeds sprout for a long time, so it would be good to root out the same area several times in the summer. In the early stages of the project, it is important to examine how the grazing should be arranged, so that the Himalayan balsam will be eaten as accurately as possible. However, sheep are not suited for every area. The area must be big enough and the flock the right size to make sure the sheep thrive. In addition, arrangements regarding drinking water supply and other practical matters limit the selection of suitable pastures.

- Although the sheep happily snack on the Himalayan balsam, we also need help from the residents’ for the experiment. Outside the pastures, there will be areas where anyone can do some uprooting, Ylitalo proposes.

Sheep have also arrived at other pastures

The traditional summer sheep have also arrived to the Kuokkala sheep pasture today, 17th of May. The sheep are rented from a sheep farm in Piesala, where they will return to in August. The summer sheep work as the pastures own lawn mowers. The sheep also chew the shrubbery, allowing the pasture areas to remain open and beautiful. The City of Jyväskylä has three pasture areas in Kuokkala: at Suuruspää, near Lampitie and in Samulinniemi.

The city takes care of the daily care and supervision of the sheep. People going to see the sheep can help with the care of the sheep by notifying the caretakers of any problems they notice. Contact information can be found on the notice boards of each pasture. The welfare of the sheep can also be supported by not giving them any extra food. The sheep do like people's food, but it is not good for them as it can cause them stomachaches. Nutritious and versatile pasture food is the only right diet for the sheep.