As growing numbers of wineries around the world consider the merits of organic and biodynamic principles, many are deploying vineyard animals to help fight weeds and pests without the use of chemicals...
Vineyard animals – Unlikely helpers
Updated on 26th September 2017.
At Two Paddocks Vineyard, owned by Sam Neill in Central Otago, sheep are used as weed control.
At Terra Noble Wines, in Chile, llamas are used to keep things tidy in the vineyards.
Armadillos are found in Bodega Chacra's vineyards in Patagonia. They eat pests and worms and have returned to the vines following efforts to introduce sustainable farming, according to the winery.
English sparkling wine producer Nyetimber borrow sheep in January for their West Sussex and Hampshire vineyard sites. They help in the vineyards until the end of February, when they return to their farms for lambing season.
Peter Yealand, of Yealands Wines in New Zealand, has been experimenting with different animals for a while. As well as babydoll sheep (next), he uses Kunekune pigs for weeding, which eat vegetation without excessively digging up the ground, like other breeds.
Geese are found in vineyards in a range of locations, from the UK to California to Chile. They are also used for weed control in the vineyards.
Yealands babydoll Sheep
Both Kunekune pigs and babydoll sheep are able to graze in the Yealands vineyards all year round, because these breeds are too small to reach the grapes!
Previously, Yealands tried using giant guinea pigs in their vineyards, but sadly they were hunted by local hawks.
Where there are sheep, there are often sheep dogs. At Navarro Vineyards, there are dogs to help herd the sheep do their weeding, such as Border Collies, and ones to protect the sheep from predators, such as Great Pyrenees.
Chickens are used in a number of vineyards to combat weeds, cutworms and other insect pests that would harm the vines.
At Quivira Wine, amongst others, the chicken manure is also used in the compost soil, as part of their organic farming.
Falcons and hawks
Gallo Family Vineyards and Cakebread are among the wineries using falcons or hawks to ward off starling birds, which were eating their grapes – whilst at the same time, not disturbing the local area or nature.
It's not technically a living creature, but Pewley Down Vineyard in Surrey uses an ingenious hawk kite to scare away predators.
Bobcats, similarly to the hawks, are used at Navaro Vineyards to keep away pests that may eat the grapes or damage the vines, such as jackrabbits and gophers.
Had enough of vineyard helpers? Here's an unwitting villain...At Kettle Valley Winery in British Columbia, bears eat the grapes. According to winemaker Bob Ferguson, they tend to go for Merlot grapes but dislike the Gewürztraminer.Find more vineyard pests here.