6 VINEYARD ANIMALS
Let’s start from an article by Lucy Shaw for The Drinks Business regarding 10 animals mostly used in the vineyards around the world, and then I will propose my 6 vineyard animals for Italian wineries
The English portal as always is a source of inspiration, I advise you to consult it often. The Drinks Business proposes 10 animals that, somewhere around the world, help mankind to keep the vineyards in perfect equilibrium.
In succession find geese, bats, Babydoll sheep, dogs, pigs, horses and mules, bees, armadillos, birds of prey and chicken.
Let’s ignore the bats, that after gifting us with the Corona virus I find even more off-putting. I feel it is best not to help them proliferate and most of all keep them away from human beings.
Dog too I fear are not a good idea. In Spain they use terriers to hunt the mice and rats. Here we could use the Maremma Sheepdogs to scare off wild boar and roebuck. The only problem is the aggressiveness of these dogs, which without a fence, might also attack people. But, once fenced off the vineyards it would be useless to get a dog to protect the grapes as the ungulates wouldn’t be able to get in anyway.
We shall also exclude pigs. In Australia they use a spurred cordon method that keeps the plant high so the small Kunekune pigs cannot reach the grapes, but the Italian breeds of pigs would be perfectly able to reach them. Regarding the armadillos, we shall not even consider them, apart from the problem in finding them; they also like to eat grapes.
So here is my list of 6 animals for the Italian vineyards:
GEESE IN THE VINEYARDS
In Chile the Cono Sur winery has geese and in total 1.000 birds in the vineyards to eat the parasites.
SHEEP IN THE VINEYARDS
There are some grape growers in Marlborough and in West Sussex who use them like environmentally friendly lawnmowers. These could be a good idea in Italy too in the vineyards with grass between the rows, in the regions where there is a sheep rearing tradition, such as in Abruzzi, Tuscany, Lazio …. Where we are the rainfall is so limited that grassing is not used much at all.
CULTIVATING VINEYARDS WITH HORSES AND MULES
Normally used in Burgundy, vineyard horses and mules have great estimators also in other regions of France, like Michel Chapoutier. And now they are becoming popular also in Italy where producers like Gianfranco Fino use them to get softer soil with respect to those compressed by the tractors.
BEES ARE FRIENDS OF THE VINEYARDS
These are true sentinels of the environment, the bees threatened by Varroa mite and the pesticides hide willingly in the organic vineyards. The grape growers like them because they help the pollination and increase biodiversity, At Fattoria del Colle too, we host some hives and in the future we will be particularly careful of the flowering to help these small friends of mankind.
BIRDS OF PREY IN THE VINEYARDS
Birds of Prey and nocturnal birds are important for the ecosystem and one must favour their settling by placing bird houses and nests in the trees. Their presence keeps away the birds that eat great quantities of grapes. We have two falcons always overflying Fattoria del Colle. I feel they are harmless and the pigeons look at them without fear, but maybe the smaller birds such as starlings could be prey for them. A different thing though are the trained Peregrine Falcons, who have longer claws and are very efficient deterrents for even larger birds.
CHICKEN AND VINEYARDS
In Chile in the Emiliana winery in Casablanca, the chicken in the vineyards are used to eat parasites.
I feel that to keep chicken among the rows of vines is a good idea if the fencing keeps them safe from the foxes and if the lay eggs. The problem though could be their droppings that, if abundant, might make up manure not apt for the vines.