Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Calling Bo Peep!

If you know Bo Peep, if you ARE Bo Peep, or if you would just like some sheep, North Dakota is the place for you, my friend!

In order to bolster the next generation of shepherds ,

(No! Not THOSE shepherds! THIS kind of shepherd):

I'm starting over. In order to bolster the next generation of shepherds, the Lamb and Wool Producers of North Dakota (LAWPOND) are giving away sheep as part of their "perpetual starter flock program" for teens. WTF? (Of course, you know that stands for "What the flock"?)

If you are one of the lucky teens selected for this program, you will receive ten ewes. Ewwww? No, no, no! An "ewe" is a female sheep. (Too many homophones in the sheep business.)

Now, once you have your ewes, if you expect your flock to grow, you're going to need some Rams. No, not the football team. The sheep rams. But don't worry. The LAWP will hook you up with some rams as well. And they will provide you with their rams free of charge! (If you were just a regular shepherd and needed a ram or two, they will provide rentals for between $300 and $400. Sort of like an ovine gigolo service.)

See, now, they say that they're "giving away" these ewes and these rams, but they're not totally "giving them away". The program has to keep going and if they give away the farm (or all of the livestock on the farm) they're not going to have a program from which to give stuff away much longer. So, the lucky sheep recipients will pay back 60 percent of the ewes' cost. Relax, they don't have to do it all at once. They have like a sheep payment plan where they only have to pay back 20 percent of the cost of the sheep for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th years. That's right. They only have to pay back 60 percent of the TSC (Total Sheep Cost).

But wait! There's more! (Boy, these folks over there in North Dakota sure do drive a good sheep bargain. They're going to have people just knocking down the doors to the barn if they keep adding stuff to this!) The participants will also be mentored by member of the LAWPOND in case they need help with production issues or if they have any questions (ie, "Why am I doing this?").

I guess the mentor would be the guy who would school you on the finer points or shepherding. Like which flocks would require the shepherd to have a sheepdog. I find it odd that there is no mention of a sheepdog in any of the tantalizing literature about this program. Don't you need a sheepdog? I seem to remember Wile E. Coyote having to deal with a sheepdog during his early days at Looney Tunes (before he was Wile E., he was Ralph. Or Sam. One of those. He never did get the sheep. That must have been why he switched over to chasing the Road Runner. Yeah, that was a much easier gig.) That's another thing. What about the predators? Is there sheep predator training? You'd want that, especially if it's just you and your crook against the coyote.You're definitely going to want to learn how to use that thing in case of an emergency.

And they have to make the offer lucrative because the sheep industry is declining. (Yes, shocking, I know.) According to the USDA, sheep and lambs ranked 21st among the agricultural commodities in North Dakota in 2006. In Minnesota, sheep and lambs ranked 18th among Minnesota agricultural commodities in cash receipts in 2006. (Wait. The sheep and lamb business is a "cash only" industry? Lots of problem with bouncing checks for sheep, are there?) And if they don't offer some pretty good perks, we're going to run out of sheep and lambs (which is bad, I'm sure, but I'm not sure how bad. Now, if it were pigs I'd see the issue because bacon comes from pigs. And who doesn't love bacon? Mmmm...bacon.)

The requirements for this program are, well, they're not overly restrictive, that's for sure. Here are the requirements. If you qualify, sheep herding in North Dakota may be for you!
  • Be between 10 and 18 years of age. (TEN? I had to feed the dog when I was ten, but I don't know if I could have been a shepherd.)

  • Join the association as a senior or junior member. (There are no, repeat, NO weird initiation rituals. No farmyard hazing to worry about.)

  • Attend the association convention the year they receive the sheep and again the following year to give a progress report. (How I spent my summer vacation: With sheep.)

  • Have the support and endorsement of a parent or legal guardian, as well as two letters of recommendation from people other than family members. (Does not specify that they must have any knowledge what so ever of shepherding, sheep or any combination of the two.)

  • As a practical matter, participants will need to live on a farm or in the country and have access to the necessary facilities. ("Necessary facilities"? I thought "outdoors" was the only "necessary facility" needed for shepherding.)

  • Young people living in the city potentially could participate by making arrangements with a farmer, although some opportunities likely would be rare. (Yes, I would imagine they would be extremely rare.

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