Yealands winery uses sheep to maintain vineyards
Peter Yealands of the Yealand Estate winery in the Marlborough region of New Zealand, has made some impressive steps towards making his 1,000 hectares of vineyards and winery more sustainable. The winery is covered in solar reflective high insulation cladding with a rainwater harvesting system on the roof. There are motion sensors in the winery for lighting and a heat recovery system from the refrigeration system. Wastewater is treated on-site and re-used while organic matter from the vineyards is composted and used as mulch. Not to mention, the Estate has its share of solar panels and wind turbines being in one of the driest and windiest parts of the region, the Awatere valley.
Many of these green upgrades are highly technological so it came as a surprise when I read that Yealand Estate has come up with an interesting alternative to tractor mowing: use miniature sheep. Yes, miniature sheep. Babydoll sheep only grow to 45 – 60 centimeters (roughly 17 – 24 inches) tall whereas regular sheep are tall enough to reach the grapes and as Peter discovered, they do in fact like to munch on them. The first Babydoll sheep were introduced to the vineyards last year, though Peter hopes to breed them with Saxon merino sheep to eventually have a flock of 10,000. This would also enable the winery to sell the wool to the textile industry and to possibly sell the meat in the future.
Mowing 1,000 hectares of vineyards would use a lot of fuel and produce significant emissions; sheep are a way to keep the grass between the rows of vines low and to eliminate the need to spray. How cool is that?
Yealands Estate has achieved carboNZero certification and won an award for small to medium businesses from New Zealand’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. Read more about their environmental initiatives here.