Using sheep grazed in vineyards for meat

Find out about how the meat from sheep used to pluck grape vine leaves may be affected, and what you can do to prevent problems.

The risks from sheep eating grape leaves

Vineyards have used sheep for leaf-plucking for some years now. The number of vineyards doing this is increasing. But there are risks associated with the practice. These are to do with residues from the chemicals sprayed in vineyards showing up in the sheep meat.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has concerns about the following:

  • There's not enough information available about the sprays and chemicals used in vineyards.
  • Most chemical labels have information about animals that graze on pasture, rather than on grape vine leaves. MPI believes grape vine leaves pose different risks.
  • An increase in the practice could increase residue risks and threaten trade.

Sheep eating grape leaves could affect our export trade

Many of our trading partners have "no detectable residues" as their testing limit. This means that if any trace was found in sheep meat exported to that country, they might close their market to New Zealand.

Who's legally responsible?

Graziers and farmers are legally responsible for:

  • the health and welfare of sheep used for leaf-plucking, and
  • any residues found in their meat.

What you need to do

MPI asks farmers, graziers, and vineyard owners and operators to take a cautious and responsible approach.

We recommend the following:

  • Don't use lambs for leaf-plucking.

Graziers, and vineyard owners and operators should work together to:

  • identify all sheep used for leaf-plucking, and
  • withhold these sheep from slaughter or sale for at least 6 months from the earlier of the time of the last known spray, or when the animals were removed from the vines.

Vineyard owners should keep spray diaries to:

  • assist graziers, and
  • provide a way of tracing, in case there is ever a residue issue.

Who to contact

If you have questions about using sheep grazed in vineyards for meat, email

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