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Little Lambs Eat Ivy -- and Leaves of Wine Grapes, Too

A winery owner in Canada uses lambs to control his grapevines. He learned how in New Zealand. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Growers around the world are using new methods to grow grapes to make wine. These include natural and organic methods to control harmful insects and weeds instead of using chemicals. Now, a winery in Canada has imported a natural way to control its grapevines.

The Featherstone Winery is in southern Ontario. It has eight hectares of perfect rows of grapevines. The vines, like other plants, need to be pruned every year.

In general, dead or living parts of plants need to be removed to improve the shape or growth of the plant. Pruning grapevines must be done very carefully. Only a targeted area of leaves is removed from the lower part of the vines to help the grapes grow better.

But at the Featherstone Winery, no man or machine does the pruning. Instead, the job is done by forty cute, little wooly lambs.


David Johnson owns the vineyard. He says he learned about using lambs while visiting wineries in New Zealand.

Mister Johnson says the young lambs are perfectly designed to do the job. They eat the grape leaves on the lower parts of the vine. But they are not tall enough to reach the grapes.

They only weigh about twenty-two kilos, so they do not beat down the soil. And their waste makes good organic fertilizer. In addition, using the lambs costs much less than hiring workers to prune the vines for seven weeks in the summer.

And when the pruning is done in August, the lambs -- well, you might not want to know this part. They become lamb chops. Tasty ones, says David Johnson.

He says he had a difficult time finding enough lambs to do the job. There are about fifty million lambs in New Zealand. But there are not nearly as many in Ontario. Also, even some organic pesticides are harmful to lambs. And the lambs must be supervised so they do not prune too much.

David Johnson says the lambs carry out his environmental ideas about farming. He says the lambs are lovely and peaceful and he likes having them in his vineyard. People visiting the vineyard also enjoy watching the lambs do their job.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. It was produced by Joyce Kryszak with support from the Park Foundation and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. You can hear more stories and subscribe to the daily podcast at And you can find more of our Agriculture Reports at I'm Mario Ritter.