English | Dzongkha Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sheep rearing declining due to wild animal and dog attacks in Merag, Trashigang

May 14, 2021

Sheep rearing which is one of the main sources of livelihood for the highlanders of Merag Gewog in Trashigang is gradually declining over the years. Today only a few households rear sheep in the gewog. The locals attribute the decline to attack by wild animals and feral dogs.

60-year-old Pema Dorji is one among the few households that raise sheep in Merag Gewog. Today he rears around a hundred sheep at Charpaling pastureland.

Pema and his family have been making a living rearing sheep for the last 25 years. While many in the village gave up the practice long before, Pema and his wife chose to continue rearing sheep as it is easier to herd compared to yaks. Pema spends his days by the grazing land keeping a close eye on the flock to keep them from predation by wild animals and dogs. And his days do not go to waste. The sheep returns the favour double-fold in the form of wool which is the main source of income for him to run his family of seven. His wife occasionally lends him a helping hand shearing wool from the sheep. The family makes a handsome income of around Nu 100,000 every year from the sale of wool. “I shear wool thrice every year. A kilogram of the wool earns me Nu 350 in Merag. I also exchange the wool for butter, cheese and fermented cheese with those who herd cattle,” said Pema.

But things do not come without their fair share of challenges. Pema’s sheep are falling victim to some unknown diseases.

“I had around 130 sheep during winter but more than 20 of them died during summer. I don’t know what happened to them. It is disheartening to lose them like that. They are sole income earner.”

As the Sun sets Pema gathers the sheep, feed them flour mixed with salt and lead the flock back home where they are kept inside the fence to keep the predators at bay. Pema said iron fencing has helped him guard his sheep against predators during the night.

Despite the challenges, Pema is encouraged to rear more sheep with the installation of a wool processing machine in Merag Gewog. “Although I don’t have enough money I wouldn’t mind buying some more sheep and rear around 150. But there isn’t anyone selling sheep now. Now with a wool-processing machine in the village, I think the wool price is only going to increase and I will be able to earn more money.”

Pema Dorji and his wife have five children. Currently, Merag Gewog has around 1,650 sheep with only five households rearing more than 100 sheep.

Sonam Darjay

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