Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Snow drift sheep 'traumatised'

Snow drifts in some parts reached 20 feet high

One of four sheep that survived more than three weeks stuck in heavy snow drifts in Northern Ireland is struggling to adapt to her newfound freedom.

The black faced Lanark ewe is stubbornly refusing to leave the hedge side in Co Antrim where she was buried under a thick blanket of snow since March and will still only eat the bark and leaves that helped her survive the freezing ordeal.

The sheep was one of two surviving ewes found by the hedge at the McGarel family's farm near Glenarm.

Around 10 miles away at the Wallace family farm, on the other side of Slemish Mountain, two hardy rams also emerged alive when the remnants of the March 22 blizzard finally thawed during weekend rain. The rams' endurance feats, which included eating the wool off each other's backs to survive, have prompted some to christen them both "Rambo".

More than 20,000 dead livestock have so far been collected across Northern Ireland as part of a state-funded disposal scheme established by the Stormont Executive to deal with the farming crisis caused by the snow drifts, which in some parts reached 20 feet high.

The discovery of the four surviving sheep in Co Antrim comes after a ewe and newborn lamb were found alive last week after a fortnight buried in snow in North Wales.

Elaine McGarel, who lives at the Glenarm farm with husband Damien and their five children, said the two ewes had reacted completely differently upon finally being released.

"One of the ladies is still very wobbly on her feet, she's feeling a bit sorry for herself," she said. "She won't move from the ditch side and she thinks all she can eat is the bark from the trees, she's still eating up the hedge. The other one has got a bit wild. Even the dog can't work with her any more. The dog tried to bring her in yesterday and she leaped over fences, hedges and everything to get away. Any sign of a human being and she just takes off - I think she's a bit traumatised."

Sandra Wallace described the survival of her husband Sam's two black faced rams as a "miracle".

"They were trapped between a stone ditch and the snow drifts," she said. "I think they were able to get to a bit of air there and they were able to eat the wool off each other. One of them is nearly bare now, a lot of the wool has been eaten away. Sam thought they might die with the shock after coming out of the snow after 23 days. But they seem fine, they are back to eating grass now."

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