Vineyard managers don’t like the weeds and grass that grows between vines because they slow vine growth and grape production. Sheep graziers call the vineyardist’s problem “forage” and would love to be able to use it to grow their herds. So how can vineyard managers work with sheep growers so that they’re both happy? The answer comes to us in a new invention from Australia.
Check out the WineBAA – a muzzle that lets sheep eat grass and weeds, but prevents them from eating the vines. It’s a guard that is open at the bottom and blocked at the front and is counterbalanced so that when a sheep lifts it’s head to graze, the muzzle prevents it from eating foliage and fruit, but when it puts it’s head down to graze the muzzle swings clear so it can graze easily.
In Australia, sheep in vineyards is nothing new. Sheep graze vineyards for 6 months, from mid autumn to mid spring, providing cost savings for vineyards and low cost pastoral land for sheep growers. But, sheep are sent away while vines and fruit are actively growing, causing weed management problems for vineyards and causing pasturing issues for the sheep. Inventor David Robertshaw created the muzzle to reduce the costs of weed and grass management, reduce CO2 emissions and herbicide use, and increase productivity for both vineyards and sheep graziers. His muzzle lets sheep work year round, adding value to the vineyards, and creating a viable business model for sheep growers who can lease vineyards as low-cost pasture.
If you click on the graphic below, you’ll get a PDF of cost savings estimates in Australian dollars for mowing (slashing) and herbicide, and for potential income from leasing pasture to sheep (called agist or agistment in Australia). For those in the United States this is a good place to start plugging in numbers based on your known expenses.
Other Uses for the WineBaa
The muzzle could be a good tool for reforestration, allowing sheep to keep weeds and grass from smothering saplings. Robertshaw says saplings would need to be a certain size before allowing the sheep to graze, so you’ll need to contact him to learn more. Robertshaw says they’ve looked at using the muzzle for goats and cattle, but some adjustments will need to be made.
Get Your WineBAA
If you’d like to get sheep outfitted for vineyard work, register your interest here to be sure WineBAA produces enough for your needs.
Then check out this video of WineBAA sheep at work.