A battalion of duck 'soldiers' has been protecting this 300-year-old vineyard for decades

Monday, 25 July, 2022
Vergenoegd Löw
At Vergenoegd Löw in the Cape Winelands, Indian runner ducks keep the vineyards completely pest-free.

At Vergenoegd Löw The Wine Estate, on the banks of the Eerste river outside Cape Town, "to get your ducks in a row" is not just a popular idiom. For decades now, the winery has been enlisting the help of a battalion of ducks to keep its vineyards free of pests. According to CNN, in its quest to make wine production more sustainable, Vergenoegd Löw was inspired by the centuries-old practice of using ducks to remove pests from rice paddies in Asia.

"I call our ducks the soldiers of our vineyards," said Managing Director Corius Visser. "They will eat aphids, they will eat snails, they will eat small worms—they keep (it) completely pest-free."

Since the 1980s, the winery has been calling on the services of around 1 600 Indian runner ducks to embark on a 14-day circuit through the vineyard, eating and fertilizing the ground as they go. "Indian Runner Ducks are slender in build, fast, agile and can easily reach into vines and burrow between cover crops," David Badenhorst, the social media manager at Vergenoegd Löw told PEOPLE in 2018.

Although they cannot fly, the ducks have a highly developed sense of smell. The daily commute of the workforce aka the "Duck Parade" is also a huge attraction at the vineyard, with people—young and old alike—flocking to Vergenoegd Löw to watch the birds.

"Our aim was to draw people back to the farm and this saw the introduction of our famous duck parade to create an awareness of our approach to sustainable farming practices at Vergenoegd Löw," Badenhorst explained.

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