Two wineries in the Hudson Valley, BashaKill Vineyards and Benmarl Winery are using Babydoll Southdown Sheep to manage weeds and fertilize their vineyards. It’s their effort to use more organic fertilizers and the sheep help with the weeding and aeration of the soil. This allows them to use more sustainable vineyard practices.
What are Babydoll Shouthdown Sheep? They are an ancient breed of sheep with sweet, teddy bear faces and because of their diminutive size, miniature Southdowns make outstanding weeders for use in vineyards. They are only 24 inches tall when mature, and so can’t easily reach the grapes. Their small hooves help break the soil surface without compacting it. They move easily up and down hills, and can get into a field or vineyard much earlier than machinery can. And not only do they provide an organic alternative to pesticides and expensive mowing operations, their recycled grass (manure) helps improve soil fertility as well.
Babydoll Southdown sheep originated in the South Downs of Sussex County, England. They are considered to be one of the oldest of the sheep breeds. They have a docile disposition and extremely fine wool, similar to that of Cashmere goats. These small sheep are also known for their hardiness and easy care when compared to more modern breeds.
When visiting both BashaKill and Benmarl, they care and treat the sheep just like you or I do with our dogs. (although I doubt the sheep are sleeping the their beds with them) They talk proudly about their Babydolls just like they were talking about their children (and neither of them have any that I know of)