Mini sheep keep NZ vineyard green
17 Jul 2009
Forget tractors, lawn mowers and fuel, do away with noise and carbon emissions ... a New Zealand winegrower has discovered an environmentally-friendly - and cute-as - answer to controlling the growth beneath his vines.
At Yealands Estate vineyard, in the South Island’s Marlborough wine region, owner Peter Yealands has introduced a flock of miniature sheep to wander the vines grazing on the grass and weeds that he once used seven tractors to mow.
A man who’s passionate about sustainability, Yealands says the mini sheep - an old English breed known as ‘babydolls’ which only grow to 45 - 60cm high - are the perfect answer to doing without the carbon emissions produced by tractor power.
Not tall enough to reach the vines or munch on the fruit, the tiny sheep would save about 3500km of mowing annually around the 1000ha vineyard, he said.
Yealands, who wants to turn his estate into the world’s most sustainable wine operation, had experimented with free-range chickens, conventional sheep and guinea pigs before taking on the babydolls.
Unfortunately the normal-sized sheep got a taste for grapes, and the chickens were too hard to control. The guinea pigs seemed like a good idea but proved not viable on a commercial scale.
After searching the world by internet, Yealands discovered the miniature sheep and imported 10 animals from an Australian breeder.
The newest arrivals are being grazed amongst 125 hectares of sauvignon blanc vines that will be grown organically.
The babydoll sheep cost $3000 each, including quarantine costs, but
they've been such a success that Yealands has another 30 on order for
Eventually, Yealands plans to cross-breed the babydoll sheep with Saxon merino sheep and grow the flock to 10,000. This would take four crossings until the sheep were seven-eighths babydoll, and would take at least five years.
As by-products of the lawn-mowing operation, Yealands plans to create a niche market selling meat to restaurants and producing fine, high lustre babydoll wool.
Yealands Estate is the New Zealand’s largest carboNZero certified winery. There about a dozen wineries worldwide with carbon neutral certification, and seven are in New Zealand.
From winemaking to employee air travel to foreign port shipping, the Yealands Estate - both vineyard and state-of-the-art winery - operates with an effective net zero carbon footprint.
Techniques include solar and wind power, heat recovery systems, waste recycling and storm water collection for irrigation. Yealands has also developed more than 20 wetland areas to preserve native plant species and attract native birds.
Background: Yealands Estate - Marlborough
Yealands Wines, launched in August 2008, collected 33 awards in the first year of operation.
Peter Yealands began developing New Zealand’s largest privately-owned vineyard in 2003. It is set in the rolling foothills of the Awatere Valley, Marlborough - a wine-growing region famous for its award-winning sauvignon blancs.
Yealands' vision, based on sustainable values, has translated into a winery valued at $NZ45 million, featuring advanced green production technology alongside many innovative ideas devised by the Yealands team.
Yealands Estate anticipated total energy savings of 949,000kWh in its first year of operation. Put into perspective, this saving represents the total annual energy consumption of more than 118 New Zealand households.
Yealands Estate received caboNZero certification in April 2009. The vineyard won the Small Business Awards at the national Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) Awards in May 2009.
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