Sheep find work at wineries

Oregon wineries adopt an old-school strategy by using sheep as weed wackers.

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Green Grazers reintroduces a traditional mowing tactic to Oregon wineries: using sheep to get rid of the cover crops and weeds that grow between vineyard rows.

Oregonians have begun using goats to graze on invasive English ivy and Himalayan blackberries in recent years. Sheep fill a void since goats tend to favor shrublike plants. Neither animal requires fossil fuels.

The contemporary term for the practice is “targeted grazing,” says Claudia Ingham, an Oregon State University ethics instructor who owns Ecological & Agricultural Consulting and studied targeted grazing for her doctorate. Among the different kinds are stockmen who, like Wood, aim to fatten an animal before slaughter, and herdsmen who raise goats with the singular purpose of improving a plant community.

Both require the livestock manager to know the plants present and to choose the right animal to target the plant the landowner wants to eliminate. In California’s dry areas, where shrubs are a fire hazard, grazing goats keep them in check. In some vineyards, the enemy is weeds. In others, it’s a cover crop meant to enrich the soil.

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