Silence of the Sheep? Hannibal Lecter-esque Muzzles Prevent Vineyard Buddies from Devouring Grapes in Sustainability Initiative

Silence of the Sheep? Hannibal Lecter-esque Muzzles Prevent Vineyard Buddies from Devouring Grapes in Sustainability Initiative

 

Sheep are useful vineyard pets when it comes to sustainable cover crop management, happily munching on weeds and grass between vine rows. But they've also got a more concerning appetite … for grapevine leaves and berries. A new invention out of Australia offers a fix, even if it evokes a famed accessory of a certain Chianti-loving film villain who also had problematic tastes: a special muzzle-and-harness kit that allows sheep to graze and drink on the ground but hinders them from plucking grapes from higher up.

WineBaa founder David Robertshaw said the muzzles, which he calls “vineguards,” allow vintners to use sheep as a natural source of land-clearing year-round, saving money and reducing CO2 emissions in the process. The critters are also beneficial to the soil itself, as they provide natural fertilizer and tread more lightly than machines.

“I saw a need for WineBaa when [I saw] vineyards being slashed [by mechanical clearing tools] between the vines, and felt this was a waste of feed,” Robertshaw told Unfiltered via email. “My initial concept was for a device that would stay fixed with counter weights, but I was still unsure how that would look. Several prototypes, and over a year later, we had developed WineBaa into what it looks like today.”

The vineguard fits over a sheep’s nose and mouth, leaving the bottom open for normal grazing, but swinging closed when the animal lifts its head toward forbidden fruit. Robertshaw, attuned to sheep chic, offers the muzzles in both sensible black and a kicky neon pink. But if you still don't dig the look, other sustainability-minded growers have addressed the issue by employing smaller breeds of sheep—or very, very large breeds of guinea pigs.