Using Sheep for Vineyard Management? Consider Using Electric Dog Fences and E-Collars
You may be wondering if you read our title right. The answer is yes. Using sheep for weed management prior to bud break has been a common practice among many traditional vineyards. For years this was achieved using pastoral care to ensure the sheep remained within the assigned area. Pastoral teams made of one or two shepherds as well as a sheep dog was the standard.
For the last decade wine producers have seen a tremendous increase in the demand for organic products. With this in mind having sheep for weeding as well as other aspects of vineyard management is becoming a preferred method. With proper training, just like geese sheep can be selective weeders consuming only the plants that are not beneficial to the soil.
Using sheep results in significant savings in human labor, generates fertilizer and fuel and helps the environment. It also provides a salable product or food. The sheep are moved through the vineyard to minimize over cropping and compaction of soil. A typical vineyard might support 30 sheep per acre. Electrified wire combined with e-collars allows for the vineyard keeper to contain the sheep without the use of unsightly fences that can affect access and impact the landscape.
In addition to keeping sheep and the shepherding dogs contained electric wire can be used to protect the vines from overconsumption after bud break. When properly positioned the electric wire will protect the fruiting zone while allowing the sheep to freely forage in the land.
In terms of cost, using electric dog fences and e-collars for sheep containment is perhaps one of the most affordable avenues. Many electric dog fences are expandable for spaces of up to 100 acres and can be configured to serve a variety of terrains. In addition, dog fences can be combined with a battery unit or a large solar panel in areas where there is no access to ongoing electricity.
Sheep eliminate the need for any mechanical cultivation, tillage or mowing both between rows and under the vines. This eliminates four to eight tractor passes per row per year. The sheep also remove suckers, saving eight hours of labor per year per acre.
As an added benefit, vineyards featuring tasting rooms with pairing, take advantage of food products such as sheep cheese and meat. This method of vineyard management is quite popular in Australia but more and more vineyards in Napa, St. Helena and Sonoma are experimenting with this practice.
At Dog Fence DIY we highly recommend the SportDog as a viable and expandable option that can be used with sheep and dogs alike. When using collars with sheep it is important to shear the neck area to ensure proper contact.
You can read more about the SportDog Electric Fence here.
Photo credit: Wines & Vines