I was lucky to spend the day on a sheep farm located near the southern tip of the South Island in a place in western Otero called "Kelso." The farm is owned by a friend of my daughter and is home to over 5,000 sheep. The stunning beauty of this acreage and the animals made my soul dance and my camera gleam.
The owner, Fraser Alderton, took us on a tour of the area. The rolling hills add dimension to the scene. Sheep, scattered amongst the lush grasses, are enjoying the warm weather, but often must brave the freezing rain and high winds that are part of the climate here. The island lies in close proximity to Antarctica and the southern tip of the South China Sea.
The family has seven farm dogs that live in individual kennels behind the house. These dogs are friendly and well behaved. There are two working dog types. The NZ Huntaway dogs are large sturdy dogs whose function is to bark on command, thus getting the sheep to move. The smaller herding dogs surround the sheep and urge them to go in a specific direction. Here Fraser gives each dog individual attention as the dogs anticipate their next job.
Not all sheep moms are good mothers. Sometimes a lamb is rejected. In that case the farmer tries to introduce the baby to a mom that has lost her lamb. One technique used to coax the mom to adopt a lamb is to skin the dead lamb and place it on the orphan. This often does the trick, but not always. If a substitute mother can't be found the only recourse is to kill the lamb or bottle feed it for a couple of months until it can thrive on grass. Here Cassie is feeding a lamb that is almost large enough to be weaned.
An orphan lamb by himself in the field.
These tussok grasses used to cover New Zealand, but have been nearly wiped out due to an overpopulation of introduced wild deer and land clearing for farming. Thankfully some farmers, like the owners of this farm, have preserved these gorgeous plants.
As sunset bathed the sky in pastel hues we rode back to the house, bidding goodbye to the adoring crowds.