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Pigs used to clear between vine rows and soil ridges

By Vitisphere September 09, 2022
Pigs used to clear between vine rows and soil ridges
The value of the pig's meat also has to be factored into the equation when weighing up the cost of keeping ground cover down between the vine rows. - crédit photo : Olivier Zébic

etter than sheep, pigs! “The idea of a vineyard experiment came to fruition when we heard about the New Zealand breed of pig, Kunekune, which stays small and does not have enough muscles in its neck to raise its head”, explains Reims-based wine consultant Olivier Zébic. The project actually materialised much farther South, however, on Fabrice Privat's estate in Bordeaux. The vice-chairman of the Tutiac co-operative winery, Privat welcomed 13 young Kunekune pigs in June. “Two French farms provided us with pigs of three different genetic origins”, says Fanny Gizardin, head viticulturist at Earl Montgaillard, Privat's property in Lugon.

Depending on the pruning system, use of the pigs can keep grass cover down between the rows, even when the canopy is growing, unlike sheep”, adds Zébic. The breed also has the advantage of adapting to a diet essentially based on various grasses, grazing on grass or eating fruit and vegetables. “They are still young and we haven't put them out in the vineyards yet, but on the 200 m² plots where we keep them, they feed on weeds such as mallow, ryegrass and nettle that also grow in our vineyards. They still need to be supplemented with pellets to grow well and then we will take them out into the vineyards after the harvest at the end of September”, adds Gizardin.

She views pig grazing as a novel solution for managing grass cover in the farm's vineyards. “The advantages are as much environmental as they are economic, because there are also plans to sell their meat to local customers after one or two grazing seasons, as we don't want them to get too big and reach the vines. We are going to start rotating them on about twenty hectares so that they graze on ground cover between the vines and on the ridges. If the trials are conclusive, we intend to extend them to all 250 hectares”, explains Gizardin. In excess of one hundred pigs would then be needed.  

All Comments (2)
Andrew Le 11 septembre 2022 à 11:13:18
I've had pigs on and off in the vineyard for some years, as per note from Diane they dig way too many holes and make driving the tractor up and down really unpleasant. If they get scared and run off they are more than happy to run straight through dripper tube too. Basically way too destructive and not a good idea.
Diane Holding Le 09 septembre 2022 à 20:58:18
I had free range kunekune in my vineyard for 2 years. They are super intelligent and keeping them confined is almost impossible. They are huge when fully grown and do rut despite rumours that they don't so they can really disturb the soil enough to make tractor work challenging. Cute and lovable though.
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