Vineyard grazing practices examined by BIGG and BGWA

A survey by the Barossa Improved Grazing Group and Barossa Grape & Wine Association has found the majority of BGWA respondents either already graze livestock in their vineyards or are interested in grazing in the future.

With funding from Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, BIGG and BGWA are aiming to understand the barriers to grazing adoption and promote the natural resources management and productivity benefits of the practice.

Eden Valley producer Sue Holt was one of the participants in the survey, and the winner of a lucky draw prize; a Dorper lamb donated by BIGG member Bruce Hancock.

“We’ve been grazing sheep in our vineyard for the past five years. We started putting the sheep in the vineyard to reduce chemical consumption, which has been really successful; we’ve used only one knockdown spray in the past five years. Since we started, we’ve also found that it’s very beneficial for resting other paddocks, and reduces compaction,” she said.

In total 34 grape growers participated in the survey, which found that growers who graze their vineyards for a number of reasons, including weed control, reducing chemical consumption and reducing input costs.

The survey determined that the key success criteria to successfully graze livestock in vineyards included adopting rotational (or crash) grazing, managing the timing of grazing and having good fencing.

The primary reason growers do not graze were the need for new or upgraded fencing, followed by concerns about potential soil compaction and a lack of interest in sheep.

Sue’s key tip for vineyard grazing is careful monitoring.

“We wait until most of the leaves have fallen before letting the sheep in, so that we achieve as much sugar accumulation as possible before the vines go dormant, then take them out either before budbust, or earlier if they’ve eaten all the feed. It’s important to take them out when feed is scarce to stop them chewing on the bark,” she said.

The project will now elaborate on the survey findings with a focus group made up of a cross-section of grower and industry representatives.