The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority has suggested that the sheep roundup take place in highland pastures due to animal welfare and risk of infection instead of herding the sheep to folds in the lowland as is currently practiced.
Sheep roundup. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
“It is a lousy idea which would violate century old tradition and culture,” commented Jón Vilmundarson, a sheep farming consultant and farmer at Skeidháholt in Árnessýsla county, south Iceland, to Morgunbladid.
On its website, the authority raises awareness that searching for sheep and sheep herding are difficult tasks where safety must be guaranteed as well as the welfare of sheep and horses. It is important that farmers make sure the sheep don’t become exhausted.
Flóamannaafrétt is mentioned as an example. A sheep that is found in the innermost part of Tjarnarver might have to walk 100 kilometers in six days to reach the sheepfold Reykjaréttir. It is suggested that sheep are driven on a wagon instead.
Vilmundarson dismisses the suggestion, saying that only two to three sheep have to travel such a long distance and that the distance covered each day isn’t long. In the later stages of the herding there are wagons at hand for sheep that get exhausted.
The authority pointed out that even if the sheep roundup was to take place in the highland pastures and the sheep then driven to their respective farms, roundup dances could still be held near the sheepfolds and community centers down in the valleys.
“The roundup day and everything that comes with it, such as the search and herding, is the cornerstone of countryside culture. It is of great importance to the community,” Vilmundarson concluded.
Sheep and horse roundups have also become a tourist attraction. The first roundup this year takes place on September 4.
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