(March 1997) A farmer writes

There is no better sight in spring than ewes and their young lambs. I often take a few minutes just watching, the mothers grazing, the lambs playing, darting back and forth, jumping, regularly running back to suckle. At this time of year I always think how wonderful sheep are.

I have to confess however, this sentiment does vary greatly during the whole season. The reason for this continually changing attitude is the constant battle that has to be fought against a sheep’s instinctive nature.

From birth, a sheep has two goals.

Firstly; to escape from whatever confinement he or she was put in, whether indoor pen, paddock or field (the saying “grass is always greener over the fence” seems particularly relevant).

Secondly; to kill themselves. I have experience of many successful attempts in our own flock in recent years. These include drownings in both streams and troughs, hangings from bale strings, wire netting fences, twisted briers entangled in neck wool, not to mention the many ailments which are available to contract. A particular speciality is to crowd around tall trees, telegraph poles or, even better, metal pylons when lightning is imminent.

If (Manchester United like) the double can be achieved, i. e. dying whilst in the wrong field, a place in ovine heaven is assured.

Feelings of exasperation, frustration, downright loathing through to extreme irritation occur regularly.

Questions such as – “Who in their right minds keeps sheep? Why not plough up the grassland and plant wheat? (wheat never gets out?) Why bother? Is it all worth it?” frequently cross my mind. Deep down however I know that the pleasure gained in the next few weeks more than compensates for the past hassles endured and the inevitable troubles to come.