Footprint Blog

Babydoll makes an impact on the sustainability of wine production

Duncan Graham-Rowe’s article in The Guardian addresses what one particular winemaker in New Zealand has done to reduce his carbon emissions.

Firstly, just to put a winemakers carbon footprint into perspective, let the me outline the scale of the impact: Peter Yealand, a New Zealand winemaker owns a 1000 hectare vineyard. In order to keep the grass short between the vines, which is a necessity to prevent the grass from using precious nutrients and water and to hinder the spread of disease and fungus, Yealand would have to drive his tractor 3,500km 12 times a year to keep the grass short according to The Guardian. As a result diesel amounts to 60% of his energy costs.

The Guardian article outlines a number of experiments:  ‘To avoid using a tractor, last year he experimented by letting loose giant guinea pigs. That worked initially, he said. “But once the hawks had a taste for them they were sitting prey. We were losing them by the hour. Besides, we would have needed 11 million of them to make it work.”

But there is an alternative, ‘Now Yealands has turned his attention to babydolls, a rare breed of sheep which only reach about 60cm tall when fully grown. Because the grapes tend only to start growing from about 110cm off the ground the sheep can’t reach them. Yealands has tested 10 of the sheep on a 125-hectare patch of vines.’

‘By selectively breeding them with another more common sheep, the Merino Saxon, which is favoured for its meat, Yealands now hopes to get his stock up to the 10,000 he needs within the next five years. If successful, the flock should save him NZ$1.5m (£600,000) a year in diesel alone, and he hopes to sell the sheep for meat too.’

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