One of the world’s busiest airports is getting a manicure from some of the livestock industry’s best in grazing. The Chicago Department of Aviation recently welcomed the return of the grazing herd — comprised of a mix of 30 goats, sheep, and a donkey named Jackson — to manage natural vegetation at O’Hare International Airport.
The grazing herd will be on hand at the airport for the next several weeks to manage vegetation, including tall grasses, on 16 acres of land on the west side of the airfield.
The herd provides an eco-friendly means of clearing overgrown and invasive vegetation in the following ways:
- Reduces natural vegetation harboring wildlife near runways, which could impact aircraft during takeoff.
- Eliminates air pollution otherwise caused by a lawnmower.
- Delivers a sustainable means for maintaining essential green space and safe conditions near the airfield.
The grazing herd at O’Hare International Airport first began in 2013, and is one of many sustainable practices spearheaded by the CDA in recent years—from roof top green space to compostable cutlery for concessions to water bottle refilling stations in the terminals.
The CDA’s sustainability programs, including new sustainable infrastructure installed since 2011, align with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s vision and leadership in making Chicago the most sustainable city in the country. These investments have reduced electricity and natural gas usage to make Chicago’s busy aviation system more environmentally-friendly even as passenger volumes have risen.
The grazing herd, made possible through consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), will be on hand at O’Hare through the fall or until the vegetation is fully cleared.