Keeping ewes busy

JACQUIE WEBBY
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2014
Brenda and Colin Lyon
EXTRA HANDS: Brenda and Colin Lyon watch some of their four-legged help leaf-plucking at their Pleasant Point vineyard. 

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An innovative method of using sheep under the grape vines to achieve the annual task of leaf plucking is being used with success by Colin and Brenda Lyon, of Opihi Vineyard, Pleasant Point.

The small flock of 55 two-tooth perendale-cross ewes arrived at the vineyard last week and immediately got down to the work of plucking (and eating) the bottom leaves off the vines and cleaning up any grass between the rows.

Leaf plucking is usually done by human hands, but the sheep are certainly proving they are up to the job, Mr Lyon says.

"I was a bit worried at first that they would vary their diet and eat the berries [small grapes] as well," he said. "But they don't appear to have any bad habits and the first block of vines looks great."

The idea of having sheep under the vines has been used successfully by growers in Hawke's Bay, according to Mr Lyon.

"This is the first time we have tried the sheep and it is certainly proving successful. Our vineyard is quite small, about 5.6 hectares, and we estimate the sheep will be here for less than a month."

Leaf plucking takes the leaves away from the fruit to improve air circulation and help prevent fungal diseases.

The Lyons grow a variety of grapes including pinot gris, pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling and muller thurgau. The grapes are handpicked and about 1000 cases are produced each vintage.

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- The Timaru Herald

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