05 November 2020, The Tablet

Sheep surprise: The point of woolly companions

A slow learner cares for creation


We thought we were doing them a favour, but the vet was horrified. “Where actually, um, are they?” he asked, peering across our lush paddock. It was back in May, and our eight Ryeland sheep, delivered the previous day, had gone AWOL inside waist-high grass. When they emerged – shaking a bucket of pellets has an electric effect – the vet shook his head. “It’s like letting children into a sweet shop and locking the door,” he chided. “They’ll become obese.”

“But we did our research,” I protested, “and the consensus is five sheep per acre. We’ve got eight on 1.3 acres.”

“But that’s five sheep per acre over the whole year,” he vetsplained. “That includes four months of winter, when the grass doesn’t grow.” He left a blizzard of instructions: strim and cart away the grass, divide the paddock into four with temporary fencing, and rotate the sheep every few weeks.

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