Animals

Quackers! The South African wine estate that unleashes 1,600 DUCKS into its vineyards to keep them free from pests

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It’s a sight that sends visitors quackers.

Vergenoegd Löw The Wine Estate in South Africa unleashes 1,600 Indian runner ducks into its vineyards to keep them free from pests.

The ducks happily dine on snails and insects, which allows the estate to be less reliant on pesticides.Vergenoegd Löw The Wine Estate in South Africa unleashes 1,600 Indian runner ducks into its vineyards to keep them free from pests

Vergenoegd Löw The Wine Estate in South Africa unleashes 1,600 Indian runner ducks into its vineyards to keep them free from pestsVergenoegd's ducks, pictured, dine on snails and insects, which allows the estate to be less reliant on pesticides

Vergenoegd’s ducks, pictured, dine on snails and insects, which allows the estate to be less reliant on pesticides

According to the estate, Indian runner ducks are faster than other breeds because ‘they walk rather than waddle making them far more efficient at covering ground’.

It adds: ‘The ducks form part of a natural pest control solution. Our runner ducks are integral to the quality of our wines and our environmentally conscious principles.’

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Ducks were introduced to the estate – which sits between the Helderberg Mountains and False Bay – by John Faure, a previous owner, who used ducks as a boy to keep his vegetable patch clear of pests.

He reasoned that they could also be used to do a similar job on a vineyard, so he bought six ducks at a show in South Africa and bred them.According to the estate, Indian runner ducks are faster than other breeds because ‘they walk rather than waddle making them far more efficient at covering ground’

According to the estate, Indian runner ducks are faster than other breeds because ‘they walk rather than waddle making them far more efficient at covering ground’

Vergenoegd is also home to a gaggle of geese, which help protect the ducks – and their much-valued eggs – from naturally occurring predators, such as birds of prey.

According to Marlize Jacobs, a winemaker at the estate, snails are the worst pest.

He says: ‘Snails come in huge numbers, all at the same time, at a specific time of year – when the grapevines are budding. They can destroy a whole crop easily within just a few days.

‘We are not the only estate using ducks, but we are the only estate in South Africa with so many ducks. And the only estate with so many runner ducks. Vergenoegd is home to a gaggle of geese, which help protect the ducks - and their much-valued eggs - from naturally occurring predators, such as birds of prey

Vergenoegd is home to a gaggle of geese, which help protect the ducks – and their much-valued eggs – from naturally occurring predators, such as birds of preyDucks were introduced to the estate (pictured) – which sits between the Helderberg Mountains and False Bay - by John Faure, a previous owner

Ducks were introduced to the estate (pictured) – which sits between the Helderberg Mountains and False Bay – by John Faure, a previous owner

‘Over the years, I have been contacted by a few wine farmers that also wanted to breed runner ducks, but as soon as they learned of the great capital investment to make it happen, let alone the many years it takes to build up such a huge flock, nobody else ever pursued this. And to efficiently control snails in the vineyards, you need a lot of ducks.’

In addition to a Runner Duck Wine range, the estate, which dates back to the 17th century, features daily duck parades, which are hugely popular.

For more information visit vergenoegd.co.za.

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