• rhianprime

Nanny Donkeys

Many hilly areas have their own way of coping with lambing and often it is about bringing the sheep down to pastures near the farm or shepherd. Those of you who follow "The Yorkshire Farm," will see the family bring the sheep down to lamb. My children spent hours of their youth lambing on the hills above Brecon and Monmouth with their farming friends. In some places in the world the sheep, lamb in the safety of the hillside and are brought down to lower pastures afterwards, so that the sheep and lambs can be checked over, enjoy the richer summer grazing in the valleys and ultimately marketed for meat or breeding.

In Lombardy in Italy the farmers still use donkeys to bring the lambs down to the lower lands and summer grazing and the sheep follow their babies. The donkeys are known as the Nanny donkeys for it is almost like a mobile nursery.The journey down to the lowerlands being too long and difficult for newborn lambs. The Mums can follow them safely down. It is rather cute in many ways and of course the good old donkey is sure-footed, so the precious lambs are carried in safety. This practice is still used in parts of Greece and is the age old way of moving the flock to better grazing. It is a very ancient way to move the flock on and to carry the precious lambs safely and over perhaps many miles and difficult rocky hillsides.

Donkeys are used as they can carry several lambs at the same time safely in the panniers and unable to fall out when wriggling. Dogs have also been used with a small panniers either side so up to two tiny lambs can be moved per dog to the lowerlands. I understand that goats too can be used for just two lambs or kids. Donkeys also move kids goats down the hillsides to summer pastures or to places where the grass is not dried and richer. This takes place in Europe and other mountainous regions of the world. Of course these days often the use of farm vehicles might be used if there are roads or that the terrain would support it - sometimes the caravan of shepherds and their flocks have to travel through communities large and small to get to the grazing, but it is a rare sight nevertheless, part of the farming year and a necessity for those who work as shepherds.

It isn't easy work and there are plenty of those who oppose the Nanny donkeys way of life for various reasons. We think of Jesus, the Good Shepherd who cares for his flock but who also faced hostility.

Donkey G. K. CHESTERTON When fishes flew and forests walked And figs grew upon thorn, Some moment when the moon was blood Then surely I was born. With monstrous head and sickening cry And ears like errant wings, The devil’s walking parody On all four-footed things. The tattered outlaw of the earth, Of ancient crooked will; Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb, I keep my secret still. Fools! For I also had my hour; One far fierce hour and sweet: There was a shout about my ears, And palms before my feet.

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