Vines And Ovines: Benefits of Target Grazing to Sheep and Vineyard Industries

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $14,991.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Jaime Irwin
Kaos Sheep Outfit

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: grapes
  • Animals: sheep


  • Animal Production: grazing management, grazing - rotational
  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Pest Management: biological control
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities


    Vines and Ovines: Benefits of target grazing to sheep and vineyard industries was designed to initiate scientific research that supports the symbiotic relationship between vineyards and sheep management. The project investigated the environmental and economic impacts of target sheep grazing as a sustainable agricultural practice in vineyard management. The project looked specifically at soil health and vineyard floor management. A main concern for many vineyard managers was soil compaction. We have found that sheep have little to no influence on soil compaction.

    Kaos Sheep Outfit is one of the first companies in the United States to commercially graze sheep in vineyards. We own 1000 breeding ewes and run about 3,000 feeder lambs, in the fall and winter months, in vineyards and other agricultural lands. We have proven to be competitive with tractors, but would like to add to our sustainability as a company by providing valid research highlighting what sheep are or aren’t doing on the lands they are grazing. Our preliminary research has determined that there was little to no positive or negative impact to grazing sheep in vineyards. We would like to continue the research for another two-five years to be able to come to a more conclusive conclusion.


    We divided the 9.69 acre research plot at the Bonterra McNab Ranch into eight plots, four grazed and four un-grazed. We used a stocking density of 38 sheep an acre in the plots that were grazed. The soil analysis looked at Organic matter, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Sodium, pH, Hydrogen, Cation Exchange Capacity and percent cation saturation. We looked at bulk density, forage yields and soil porosity to see what impacts the sheep had on vineyard floor management. Pruning weights before and after the sheep grazed were cut and weighed to see if there was a difference in vine health and performance.

    Project objectives:

    1. Plot design: McNab Ranch, Plots 2A, 2B, 2C, and 2D. Total of 9.69 acres divided into 8 different research plots, four that were grazed and four that were un-grazed. The plots are well established and documented at the site and on maps.

    2. Soil Health and Carbon Sequestering: The soil analysis shows what was found in the soil before and after the sheep grazed in all research plots. This analysis shows Carbon levels as well.

    3. Virginia Creeper Leafhopper Data Collection: This data collection was not accomplished in 2015.

    4. Grape Production: This was accomplished by looking at pruning weights pre and post grazing.

    5. Vineyard Floor Measurement: Forage samples were taken and analyzed

    6. Vineyard Floor Management: Bulk Density samples were taken

    7. Educational Outreach: California Fibershed convention, American Biodynamic Convention, and video widely spread throughout the sheep and vineyard industries.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.