13 Jul 2018

Counting Heads

From Country Life, 9:14 pm on 13 July 2018

Every year for the past 18, farmer Rhys Howatson of northern Wales has packed his bags and boarded a plane for New Zealand, but it's not a winter holiday he's taking.

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Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

He'll spend the next few weeks covered in mud, trying to keep dry, working in cold, drafty sheep yards, scanning ewes to see if they are pregnant.

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Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

'I just enjoy it," he says.

"I've been saying for the past five or six years it's probably the last year but this email [asking me to come back] comes every year and I say 'go on then, one more time.'"

Rhys scans between 400 and 500 ewes an hour and, on a good day, will get through more than 3000 sheep. He's paid, on average, 50 cents a sheep.

Farmers are keen to know if their sheep are pregnant and if they are, how many lambs they are carrying. 

They can then make decisions on how to feed them.

Sheep that have twins or triplets on board are separated into different mobs and given access to more feed to improve the survival chances of the lambs.