Hidden Blessings in Sheep Farming

By , September 1, 2012 8:15 AM



In the Beginning ….

One frigid morning several years ago, a few days before Christmas, my husband and I drove to a neighboring farm with a borrowed trailer and watched with breathless excitement as a very capable Border Collie loaded my Christmas present onto the trailer: four woolly, recalcitrant, and obviously pregnant ewe sheep. At home, preparations for our little hobby farm were complete: fencing and shelter were installed as well as a round pen, gates, water lines, hay racks, and all the other assorted paraphernalia deemed necessary for proper sheep care. At that time I had a couple of herding dogs (Australian Shepherds) in training, and the sheep were purchased so we could practice at home what we were learning in lessons. Sheep need a guardian for the times their shepherd is not present, so a sheep savvy guardian donkey was duly located and installed, and his needs provided for as well. In the way that one thing tends to lead to another, it seemed only reasonable that if one is to have dogs, sheep and a donkey, to throw in a few chickens … a few ducks … a flock of guineas … which is the short version of how it happened that I began to view myself as my sheep saw me, as the great provider, aka, the Shepherd of the Flock.


Donkey and Sheep


Shepherding 101

One of the first things I learned as a shepherd was just how powerless a shepherd really is. My many failures created in me a conscious humility, an acute awareness that the realShepherd, the one upon whom I depend, never suffers from a learning curve. I felt I was behind that curve with each situation that arose. Several times there were ewes who were pregnant with triplets who, when they began to lamb, labored to no avail. The ewes’ value as livestock was less than the cost of the veterinarian’s farm call and treatment. Oh, what to do, what to do? I searched the Internet, (of course), and learned of the internal placement of lambs, of buckets of antiseptic and soapy water, of how to hopefully turn things around. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. I was quickly brought face to face with the shepherd’s reality … that sometimes, despite all good intentions, the shepherd fails. And yet … and this was so humbling … my Good Shepherd has never, not once, not ever, failed me. Even things He has allowed to occur in my life that have seemed bad were ultimately used to further my growth, and His glory.

When you keep sheep, you count sheep. Not to go to sleep at night, but to make certain they are all there. When one goes missing, your heart skips a beat, particularly if the missing sheep is a baby lamb. You begin to catastrophic fantasize … “What if stray dogs got in? … What if it got out of the fence? … What if, what if, what if ….” The Scripture in Matthew 18:12-13,

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.”

takes on a whole new meaning when it is YOUR sheep that has strayed. And the Scripture is true. There is nothing more gratifying than to find that wayward lamb caught in the clutches of inadvertent brambles, safe and unharmed. Nothing compares to the joy of watching him scamper to the safety of his mother’s side, butting her udder for a meal that makes his little tail waggle.


Aussie Moving Sheep

Lessons in Humility and Innocence

Then there are the other experiences. Such as when the “guardian” donkey fails to recognize the newborn lamb as a flock member, and attacks it, kicking and shaking it, ultimately breaking its jaw. Where does the responsibility lie? Why, with the shepherd of course. The failing, incompetent, inexperienced, inadequate shepherd, who herself is answerable to the Great Shepherd. This, indeed, is humility learned at the feet of the Master

There was the time an unknown assailant took a bite from the haunch of a sheep … who then, beneath the cover of wool, hatched out a brood of maggots. What shame this shepherd felt upon discovery, such chagrin and mortification, such humiliation. For my own Shepherd has never seen fit to permit me to suffer maggots.

And do not forget the lamb. A baby lamb is the very picture of innocence. It is impossible to see the wondering liquid eyes of a lamb and not be struck that God chose the innocent, trusting lamb to represent the “lamb of God,” our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the Bible. It brings home His innocence, it makes real His sacrifice, and it touches the heart. Although I am sure there are some, I do not know of an earthly shepherd who is not a Christian.




Consider the Ewe

Sheep, when in pain, will “pretend” to be well despite whatever ailments they suffer. It is a holdover from the wild, when to show weakness was to single one’s self out for destruction by the enemy. In other words, they are very human like in their ability to put a good face on things, no matter how bad.

The mother ewe is the queen of this subterfuge. Even when she is in need of care, she only wants to be left alone. She is so protective of her babies that the sole way to adequately care for her sometimes requires kidnapping her babies, too small and unwitting to flee, whom Mother Ewe will helplessly follow, risking fear of death to save her children.

See any parallels here?


Black Sheep



It was my Shepherd’s cry to his disciple, Peter, in John 21, to, “Feed my sheep.” And despite his shortcomings, Peter, to this day, feeds his Lord’s sheep.

A little known, but true fact is that a sheep can starve to death with a full belly. Sheep will eat roughage, regardless of lack of nutrition, when nothing better is available. Again, the shepherd is brought face to face with a modern day parallel … how many human sheep daily gorge themselves today on fodder not worthy to be eaten? Think of the television shows that fail to bring Him glory, the movies, the pornography, the drugs, the endless pursuits of any and everything that might change one’s feeling state … while all the time true Nourishment waits patiently for the sheep to exhaust every other choice available before turning to Him.

The Good Shepherd watches over His sheep. He gives them life, He leads them, they hear His voice. When one cares for sheep, one is transported as if by miracle into that childlike state of living in the moment. It is impossible to relate to sheep any other way, for that is the only state they know. The relationship of sheep to shepherd is perhaps stated best in the Psalm below.


Nursing Lamb


Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;

I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:

he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;

thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Amen, and amen!



One Response to “Hidden Blessings in Sheep Farming”

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