Sheep in the Vineyard?

May 24, 2024

Why integrate livestock into your cropping system?Grapes & Graze: a Virtual Wine Tasting (with Sheep!) by Sustainability  Matters

Historically, farmers raised both crops and livestock because they are mutually beneficial. In an article titled, “Integrating Livestock and Crops: Improving Soil, Solving Problems, Increasing Income,” Linda Coffey and Tracy Mumma describe how livestock were used for weed control, improving soil health, recycling plant material, providing additional income, and insurance. Coffey and Mumma, agriculture specialists at the National Center for Appropriate Technology, state that, “A failed crop could still be grazed, and so livestock provided “insurance” in a time when crop insurance did not exist.” The industry has shifted towards product specialization by separating crops and livestock to focus on maximizing yield, but the benefits from integrating livestock back into cropping systems might change this. Some of these benefits include increasing soil organic matter and therefore water holding capacity, increasing biodiversity and fertility of the soil, reducing waste by grazing crop residue and dropped fruits, and increasing the self-sufficiency of farms (Coffey and Mumma, 2014). Ultimately, a combination of the two maximize benefits by turning crop residue into dollars and improving soil quality through the manure produced by livestock (Coffey and Mumma, 2014).

Here are a few examples of integrating livestock into cropping systems, and the benefits that result.

Seasonally grazing sheep in the vineyard reduces fossil fuel usage, reduces and eliminates the use of herbicides, produces manure to provide nutrients and organic matter to the soil, and results in a high quality, grass-fed lamb.

Video Link

Ducks are used to control pests in South African Vineyards which reduces the use of insecticides, and their manure provides additional nutrient benefits to the soil.

Video Link

Massa Organics combine cover crops, no-till, and uses sheep to control the plant growth on the floor of their almond orchard, thus eliminating the need for herbicides and artificial fertilizers.

Video Link

A farm that grows a variety of processing vegetables uses strip tillage and cattle to graze their high residue cropping system. This reduces erosion, improves the soil structure, and brings in additional revenue.

Video Link



Integrating Livestock and Crops: Improving Soil, Solving Problems, Increasing Income


By Michael Jaquez
Author - Community Education Specialist III