Vermont Study Quantifies System Benefits of Sheep Grazing Vineyards

Integrating sheep with vineyards yields substantial cost savings for farmers, as well as benefits for soil and ecosystems. Researchers from the University of Vermont brought the practice of integrating sheep with a vineyard to the state of Vermont for the first time, and they’re working with local vineyards on a study that evaluates “the whole system—the health of the grapes, the animals, the forage and soil, as well as the consumer perceptions, or marketability potential. The existing research on this work has largely looked at these different components in pieces, rather than trying to understand all of these interactions together,” explains researcher and project technical advisor Meredith Niles. In addition to measuring soil quality and animal health and documenting how the vines and grapes respond to the sheep, the research team is surveying winery visitors to determine whether the sheep integration influences buying decisions. In addition, the UVM research team is exploring other types of systems that would be well-suited for sheep in Vermont, like Christmas tree farms, hops fields, cider orchards, or solar panel fields.