Outside Interest: shepherding

Written by: jez Abbott
Published on: 4 Feb 2015

Sarah King tends her flock

Pegasus senior planner, Sarah King, talks about her enthusiasm for shepherding.

Sarah King, who lives in Leeds, has 11 rams and 31 ewes which are currently in lamb and due to give birth in the first week of April. The flock, which now includes tame sheep and is kept on grazing land, is seen by King as a hobby and not a commercial enterprise.

How did you get into the shepherding?

When I was aged eight I was given a pet sheep after my family helped look after a nearby farmer's cows. My interest, and my flock, grew from that moment. Sheep are lovely animals. When they see me coming they run across the field to meet me, just like a dog runs to its owner. My favourite sheep is an 11-year-old called Pam which I saved twice, first when as a new-born lamb she fell into a hole and nearly drowned; the other time when she got hypothermia.

What does it involve?

During the lambing season I'm up at 6am to check the animals are in their pens and feed them high-energy supplements. Sometimes I'll have to bottle feed lambs with milk or take them into a nursery paddock next to the lambing shed to molly-coddle and watch over them. Occasionally, if it looks like there will be an irregular birth you have to gently ease the lamb back into the womb, which can be nerve-racking. I try to head for home by 10pm but you can be up at 1am and then 3am to check on the lambing.

Why do you do it?

Sheep are wonderful and looking after them well is a real skill. It is also a therapeutic activity and I can sit for hours, feeding sheep hay or sneaking them their favourite snack, extra strong mints.

What’s the toughest thing about it?

Turning over sheep to trim their hoofs to stop them getting overgrown and making their feet sore is hard because sheep can be very heavy.

What’s the most rewarding thing about it?

Saving a lamb that's had a difficult birth is undoubtedly the most rewarding aspect of looking after sheep. This can involve wrapping them in a blanket and putting them in front of the blazing-hot Aga to keep them warm. As with most things involving life and death, the flip side is very sad.

Are there any similarities between your day job and shepherding?

You need a routine in both planning and looking after sheep otherwise you can't keep on top of everything. There's also a need to make judgement calls – you have to do the right thing by your client and by your sheep.

Do you have any unusual interests or hobbies that you would like to tell us about? If so, please email planning@haymarket.com