Sunday, May 18, 2008

New York Times headline...

Seeking a Few Good Shepherds

Children everywhere love prizes and fuzzy animals, right? The North Dakota shepherding industry is counting on it.
Jay Pickthorn/Forum

A program in North Dakota offers “starter flocks” to revive the state’s sheep industry.

In an unusual move meant to encourage youthful interest in a career field that could perhaps use a little of-the-moment excitement, a state group will be awarding sheep to select teens and ’tweens. They hope to encourage a new generation of shepherds.

Shepherding, always popular among storybook characters and as a religious metaphor, has taken a beating in reality. Nationally, tens of thousands of sheep ranches have disappeared in recent decades. And in mostly rural North Dakota, there are just 840 operations now, a drop of about 1,000 sites tending to lambs, ewes and rams since the late 1980s. Livestock specialists say that fewer people seem to have the patience or expertise to handle flocks, and that there are concerns about the ease of marketing and slaughter.

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