New zealand farmer narratives of the benefits of reduced human intervention during lambing in extensive farming systems
Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 16 (1):77-90 (2003)
|Abstract||Easy-care or natural lambing pertainsto those sheep able to successfully lamb andrear at least one lamb without human assistancein a difficult environment. Such sheep may havea higher survival rate, lower lamb mortality,and require less shepherding at lambing thanother sheep breeds or strains. The farmer orshepherd account of easy-care lambing revealsseveral themes. Firstly, stock were bred tosurvive or suit local environments orconditions, particularly steep hill country inNew Zealand. This involved extensive culling ofundesirable dams, regardless of how well theymight perform in traits other than the abilityto survive and to produce live lambs atweaning. Sheep that did have problems wereoften assisted, recorded or marked and thenculled at an appropriate time; thus bothartificial (culling) and natural selection wereused. Secondly, natural selection enabled theimportant traits to be identified and they weresubsequently incorporated into artificialselection programs. Thirdly, the practice wasnecessitated by the impracticality ofsupervising lambing in difficult terrain andthe cost of skilled farm labor. Finally, it wasacknowledged that disturbance at lambingcreated problems and most importantly, theeasy-care approach reduced some of the problemstraditionally associated with lambing.Easy-care lambing systems thus aim to minimizesome of the detrimental effects associated withcarefully supervised lambing in someenvironments, by selecting sheep to suit boththat environment and modern farm management.They overcame pervasive influences our culturallegacy was exerting on the way we interact withanimals, and may have produced a system more inkeeping with the biology of the animal in anextensive environment.|
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