Life in the countryside
Sheep farm near Ravenglass, Lake District, Cumbria
Some background information:
Breeding sheep, particularly Herdwick, Swaledale, Rough-Fell and British Milk Sheep, is still an important source of income for the farmers in the Lake District, whereas the main industry of this area has already shifted from agriculture to tourism.
In 2001 the local sheep farmers were touched to the quick by the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in England and Wales. It led to the destruction of many entire flocks and to fears for the survival of the typical Lakeland sheep farming industry. A full 25 per cent of all sheep were lost.
The destruction of entire flocks meant that the shepherds were forced to undergo the process of again hefting their new sheep to the hills. Normally, ewes teach this behaviour to their lambs, but with not enough ewes left acquainted with particular hill pastures the behaviour had to be taught all over again to new ewes, inevitably involving much rounding up of flocks that had strayed over the often inaccessible fells.
The Cumbria Hill Sheep Initiative was set up to "reassess the position and circumstances" in the aftermath of the disease. Tough government restrictions in order to prevent another outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease are still in place.