Grape vines are a perennial crop planted on average 8-12 foot spacing. Grapes require good air flow to reduce fungus, which means the space under and between plants must be kept as open as possible. For erosion and soil health, Lac qui Parle Vineyards keeps their rows in a sod mix of bluegrass, fescue and dutch white clover, while the space directly under the grapes is either sprayed or cultivated to keep weeds down and air-flow good. This project proposes to accomplish sod and weed management with sheep rather than with farm labor and inputs by rotationally grazing ewes using a New Zealand grazing muzzle that will restrict them from eating forage higher than ground level. This will increase soil health with animal impact and manure, decrease chemical and fossil fuel inputs for the vineyard, and save money by reducing these inputs and harvesting the cover for forage. Finally, it will build community by neighbors working cooperatively together to improve their management and profitability.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Evaluate if ewes can be grazed for the summer season in Northern vineyards to control ground vegetation.
- Measure the effectiveness of using WineBaa muzzles to allow ewes to graze ground vegetation of the vineyard without eating grapevines or fruit.
- Identify the ideal rate of animal units per acre in vineyard.