0798-Shepherd Thom

Thom Manders is a shepherd at “Bos en Schaap”. He is currently walking in the Staddijk city park with his flock of sheep. Despite the corona crisis, Thom continues to work. “You notice that nature calms down”.
Step back
Visitors to the park sometimes walk straight towards Thom because of the adorable sight of a flock of lambs. Sometimes they forget to keep their distance. “I can understand that, though. These are crazy times. If you take a walk and you see a small lamb, it can suddenly bring a lot of joy. People approach me and the herd out of enthusiasm. Normally I like that, but now I also take a step back. I don’t want to get sick, because then I can’t take care of my herd anymore. ”

Lambs learn from their mother
The sheep started lambing in February and March. “Because Kempian heather sheep have to be independent when the heathlands go up, the sheep lamb early in the year. We released three different rams into the group. The 500 ladies that are covered have taken care of just over 400 lambs in total. These, along with their mothers, are distributed among the herds. Even if the mother is not feeding the child, it is still important to put them together. Lambs learn from their mother which plants are edible and to be obedient.”

Thom’s herd now consists of 140 sheep and more sheep are added. “Some sheep have had twins. That demands more from a mother. Last year the crop grew so well that many sheep were able to eat well, which made them a bit thicker. If a sheep is fat, she will have twins more quickly. Those sheep with twins are still in the stable to strengthen. They also have to feed two mouths.”

Discarded lambs
Sometimes it happens that a mother sheep sheds a lamb. “Then we always try to place the lamb with another sheep, who has also just lambed. We then spread some of the sheep’s membrane on the lamb that has been rejected. Then we place the rejected lamb with mother and lamb. The mother sheep then gets the impression that twins have been born and thus saves the life of the rejected lamb. Occasionally this trick doesn’t work and we can’t save the rejected lamb. But this year we had little loss, fortunately.”

Rest in the herd
Although there are still many hikers in the area, Thom does notice that nature is calmed down a bit by the corona crisis. “Just look at the sky, you suddenly don’t see any planes anymore. This also ensures less noise, which in turn ensures peace in the herd. Many people cycle or walk past, but they keep a distance from each other.”

Border Collie Iwan
Thom works with his dog, Border Collie Iwan. “In the near future, we will start training the new sheep. Ivan plays a major role in this. He never has to bite, very occasionally he bites the wool so that the sheep is alert again. Iwan mainly tries to intimidate to keep the herd together. We now have one sheep that is less intelligent, haha. It looks for its mother all the time, while she’s just around. Iwam and I will be working on that in the near future!”

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