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December Sheep Roundup

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December Sheep Roundup

Reistarnes sheep

Posted with permission. Photo: Águsta Águstsdóttir

Sheep in Iceland have minds of their own. When man deems that snow requires hay feeding, sheep might disagree. At Iceland's northernmost actively operated sheep breeding farm, Reistarnes in Melrakkaslétta, a flock of sheep led man on a rather unusual December roundup.

Reistarnes sheep farm

Ágústa Ágústsdóttir operates the farm together with her husband Kristinn B. Steinarsson, who was born and raised there. Since 1990, he has been breeding sheep on Reistarnes. Although hay is provided at the onset of winter, nature seems to repeatedly draw the ewes away from the farm, even after the roundup in autumn.

Reistarnes sheep

"We have not yet housed our sheep, but still feed the animals out there," Ágústa says. Her flock of sheep is quite large, about 600 animals, with close to 150 lambs and yearlings being housed. The rest is still outside, some of them already with the ram, as "fertility rate is higher when sheep are sired outside," Ágústa explains.

Reistarnes sheep

Her sheep are obviously feeling well. She only takes them inside in April for shearing and lambing, which, in her experience, reduces trouble. Only recently, the couple purchased 250 ewes from the Leirhöfn farm. These ewes were accustomed to going out again after the roundup in autumn, preferring the beaches of Oddstaðir.

But this time, winter spoiled their trip with snow and ice, and the free-spirited sheep were in danger. So on December 3, men, dogs, snowmobiles and tractors with trailers set out for Oddstaðir and brought home a flock of nearly 100 ewes.

Ágústa took the pictures above that day, which we post with permission.

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