OK caught the attention of the guys – sorry ladies… (wink!)
Eagles Nest Winery initially had a trio of male Olde English Southdown Dabydoll Sheep, the winery now has nearly a dozen - all hailing from Mission Viejo High School’s, Agricultural Specialty Program’s, Future Farmers of America (FFA) program.
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Why would a winery with vineyards need wool or sheep? In a couple of words, weeds, sustainability. organic methods, and stewardship of the land. We spend a lot of money each year keeping the vineyards and estate vegetation trimmed and the weeds down. We don’t use chemicals or herbicides so it’s costly to manually keep the weeds at bay.
Babydoll sheep originally came from Great Britain in the 1800′s and are a great natural way to keep the weeds trimmed, and as a bonus, they distribute natural fertilizer in the vineyards in the form of discreet sheep pellets. They stand two-feet or less at the shoulder – about the size of a medium sized dog, have a pleasant disposition, and Babydoll rams and ewes do not grow horns like other sheep so no danger of getting butted like a goat.
By day, we’re training these docile, friendly, and very lovable creatures to roam the vineyards and the estate and consume weeds to their stomach’s content. At night they live up in a pen with a weather shelter, under the shade of an oak tree, near our hilltop residence for safety from predators like coyotes.
But what about the precious wine grapes? The Babydolls tend to forage/graze down – they don’t climb up on things and eat upward and at two-feet high they can only reach so far. Some vineyards retire their sheep to other pastures once the vineyards have fruit clusters hanging, as insurance, but the risk of losing winegrapes to Babydolls is significantly less than with goats, cattle, or full sized sheep.
Our Shetland Sheep Dogs (including a couple of rescues) like the Babydolls and they add to our collection of farm animals including assorted free-roaming chickens that give us brown, pastel green, and white eggs daily.