Vines and Ovines: Using Trained Sheep for Vineyard Floor Grazing

2010 Annual Report for FW08-315

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2008: $29,193.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Morgan Doran
University of California

Vines and Ovines: Using Trained Sheep for Vineyard Floor Grazing


The project started in mid-2008 with a three-day workshop for all of our project participants, which included vineyard managers and sheep producers from across California and two from the state of Washington. We also held a one-day field day in Mendocino County in August 2008 for approximately 20 people. In 2009 we completed vineyard grazing and aversion training activities on four commercial vineyards (three in California and one in Washington). Project activities in 2010 did not proceed as planned due to multiple setbacks, but in 2011 we will complete one more grazing cycle, hold field days and produce an educational DVD.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The goal of this project is to integrate producers into the Vines and Ovines research program.

The project’s specific objectives are to:

  1. Convene a two-day short course to educate and train sheep producers and vineyard managers on the principles of ruminant grazing behavior and techniques to modify grazing behavior.
  2. Establish at least five vineyard grazing demonstration sites utilizing sheep with a trained aversion to grape leaves for vineyard floor management during the 2009 growing season.
  3. Assist demonstration site producers to apply appropriate grazing practices and monitor the grazing impacts on the vineyard.
  4. Develop a set of measurements that the producers can use to evaluate the success of the practices used for training the sheep and for grazing the vineyard floor.
  5. Hold at least three field days to demonstrate and extend the practice of using trained sheep for vineyard floor management to sheep producers and vineyard managers.
  6. Convene a meeting with all project participants in July 2009 to exchange and record information on the successes, problems and solutions of using trained sheep for vineyard floor management.


In July 2008 we held a three-day workshop for 12 project participants. The workshop included a training program that included many animal behavior modules from the BEHAVE program (, hands-on aversion training of sheep at UC Davis and fundamental skills required for grazing sheep in a vineyard and averting them to grape leaves.

We also held a one-day field day in Mendocino County in August 2008 for approximately 20 people. Mendocino County is a major north coast wine grape growing area just north of Sonoma County.

In the spring of 2009 we hired a part-time assistant to work with the project cooperators in training their sheep and grazing their vineyards. Aversion training and grazing activities were applied on four commercial vineyards. In some cases, the grazing of averted sheep was applied later than desired, but this did provide some insights into potential limitations of grazing trained sheep in vineyards due to seasonal forage changes on the vineyard floor.

Other outreach efforts during the two years of activities included the writing of sheep training protocols and at least six presentations of our project given by both professional and producer cooperators to professional societies and producer groups.

We anticipated more grazing and outreach activities during 2010, but many setbacks due to furloughs, loss of trained personnel and personal emergencies limited our capacity to execute those activities.

During 2011, we are planning to complete vineyard grazing and aversion training activities on three commercial vineyards and develop a 30-minute educational DVD designed to provide information on general vineyard grazing practices and issues, grape leaf aversion training and the technique of grazing averted sheep in a vineyard. We will also hold two field days to demonstrate the application of vineyard grazing and aversion techniques to vineyard growers and sheep producers.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The project has successfully increased knowledge and awareness of potential benefits of using sheep for vegetation management in vineyards and on the technique used to avert sheep to grape leaves. Our team has presented information on this project to over 240 people at workshops, field days, professional society meetings and commodity group meetings. The application of the aversion and grazing practices are still being improved with help from the commercial vineyard managers and sheep producer. This understanding is necessary to apply these practices on a larger commercial scale. As a result of this project, we now have factsheets available for distribution to people interested in averting sheep to grape leaves and other plants. These factsheets have been sent to people throughout the United States and even to people in Spain, France, Australia and New Zealand.

An especially meaningful outcome of this project is the growing acceptance of using sheep for managing vineyard floor vegetation. In California there are at least 14 vineyards in three counties grazing 1,550 acres with sheep, three of which are using trained sheep. Even though the practice of using averted sheep to graze vineyards is the major theme of this project, an even better outcome of this project is the shifting paradigm of integrating livestock with vineyards and seeking vineyard management practices and designs that preclude the need for averted sheep.


John Harper
Livestock & Natural Resources Advisor
University of California Cooperative Extension
890 N. Bush Street
Ukiah, CA 95482
Office Phone: 7074634161
Ames Morrison
Medlock Ames Winery
13414 Chalk Hill Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Office Phone: 7074318845
Stephanie Larson-Praplan
Livestock & Natural Resources Advisor
University of California Cooperative Extension
UCCE Sonoma County
133 Aviation Boulevard, Suite 109
Santa Rosa, CA 95403-2894
Office Phone: 7075653442
Debby Zygielbaum
Vineyard Manager
Robert Sinskey Vineyards
6320 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
Office Phone: 7072873570
Julie Golden
Golden Vineyards
14251 Old River Road
Hopland, CA 95449
Office Phone: 7074858885
Paulette Lefever
Sheep Producer
1098 Highway 97
Goldendale, WA 98620
Office Phone: 8884583443
Frances LaBaw
Sheep Producer
PO Box 112
Goldendale, WA 98620
Office Phone: 5097738057
Lee Hazeltine
Sheep Producer
31639 County Road 29A
Woodland, CA 95695
Office Phone: 5306810290
Chris Turkovich
Turkovich Family Wines
24604 Buckeye Road
Winters, CA 95694
Office Phone: 5307952090
Jeff Ferrell
Sheep Producer
5040 Wise Road
Lincoln, CA 95648
Office Phone: 9165742995
Sarah Cahn Bennett
Producer Cooperator
P.O. Box 47
Philo, CA 95466
Office Phone: 7073674131
Roger Ingram
Livestock & Natural Resources Advisor
University of California Cooperative Extension
DeWitt Center
11477 E Avenue
Auburn, CA 95603
Office Phone: 5308897390