Organisation - February 25, 2020

Sheep roaming across campus

Roelof Kleis

How to you get a flock of sheep from Binnenveld to Dorschkamp? Via the campus, under the supervision of border collie Kate.

© Guy Ackermans

Kate is the nine-year-old collie of Grebbeveld Schapen & Zo, the company run by sheep farmers Clemens Oude Groeniger and Marjel Neefjes. They rent the farm Nergena, on Langesteeg, from WUR. WUR purchased the farmhouse and land in 2016 as a potential new site for trial fields, but nothing has come of that yet.

Winter grazing
The sheep farm has 500 sheep. In the summer they are sent out to graze on heathlands and poor grasslands. Last Friday afternoon, a group of 60 ewes from the farm got a trip across the campus. The sheep were on their way to a field in the Eng area. ‘Winter grazing to keep the grass in a good condition,’ explains shepherd Thomas Vossen. That’s a nice job for the sheep.

Kate the border collie is keeping the flock under control. ‘Lie down!’ calls Vossen as they approach the Mansholtlaan roundabout. They need to be careful here. The dog lies on the ground in front of the sheep. None of the sheep venture past. ‘Away!’ Kate circles the flock to get them to move closer together. Any sheep who fails to obey gets a growl. The dog is clearly in her element.

Wool felting
Then the flock sets off. By now Angela Heemskerk, responsible for wool felting at the company, has stopped the traffic. They cross the roundabout in no time. It often takes cyclists longer. Incidentally, the wool felting is an unusual technique. Instead of having a sheepskin fleece, felt is used as the base for the wool. That gives you a ‘vegetarian’ fleece, says Heemskerk. She runs workshops for learning this technique.

‘The sheepdogs genuinely enjoy this job,’ says Heemskerk. ‘When Kate was waiting in the car for her turn, she was really restless because she was so eager to get to work.’ The flock continues on its journey. The sheep will spend two weeks at the Eng. Then they will return home, probably via the campus again.