Some friends of mine just spent a week in Ireland. They said that they saw sheep with reddish/pink stuff (they said it looked like spraypaint) on the top of their hindquarters.
Anyone know why this is done? We were WAGing that it was serving the same purpose as branding, but they said in several different places in the country the only color they reported seeing was this pink. Just coincidence that they didn’t see any other colors, or is it something completely unrelated?
It’s been 9 years since I was in Ireland, but I saw the same thing. However, I didn’t just see pink, but red, blue, and a few other shades.
Your WAG was, esentially, correct. Sheepowners color code their flocks, for the same reason that cattlemen in the old West branded theirs: to differntiate them from sheep belonging to neighbors.
Since Ireland has no wolves or coyotes to kill the sheep, and since sheep rustling hasn’t usually been a huge problem, it’s usually been safe to let flocks graze freely. When it’s time for shearing, a sheep rancher with a few well-trained dogs can separate and round up his own flock very quickly.
When I was in Ireland earlier this summer, we saw all manner of colors: Green, pink, purple, red, and probably several others I don’t recall. We, too, figured that it served to identify different folks’ flocks, but one must wonder if spraypainted wool is all that useful.
Ok, well I thought that this was a result of painting the underside of the rams with an identifying color. That way you can tell which ram empregnated the ewe. The color rubs off onto the ewe during copulation.
Tell me, do you remember seeing the paint on rams AND ewes or just ewes?
Sheep rustling isn’t a huge problem no, although I would imagine the odd sheep goes home in the boot of some Corkmans car (evil grin). My cousin has animals however, and the only time marking has been of any use (he has cows, but hey…) is when one of them jumps the fence or in some other way wanders off and ends up in somone elsed field.
Yeah that’s it.
Believe it or not, there used to be a TV programme over here in the UK that was based around sheep-rounding competitions. You’d have to watch them do it to realise how skilled the dog handlers are (and how intelligent and responsive the dogs are). The shepherds signal to the dogs by special calls and whistles.
I’m afraid I can’t give a definitive answer to the OP, but I can say that sheep in Britain are also marked this way and I’ve always assumed it was ID marking. It is certainly done with spray paint, not by rams mounting ewes, and the paint washes off the wool easily enough during processing.
Australian, with sheep farming experience checking in here: I can’t speak for Irish farmers obviously but in Australia we do mark sheep in a similar way in a number of instances.
There are a couple of times a year when sheepfarmers bring their animals into a yard so they can do things like drench them (give them a dose of medicine for intestinal parasites etc) check their teeth, check if any of their teats have gone dry etc.
What you do is put them all in a yard and then run them through a race or shoot one at a time, check them over and drench them or whatever. As you finish with each animal you mark their back with a raddle stick which is a big, thick stick of red chalk (other people probably called it different names).
The purpose of the chalk mark was to ensure that you didn’t miss any sheep. It washed, rubbed or faded off after a few days.
Could it be something like this?
As to whether the spraypaint damages the wool, I’m sure like our chalk sticks, it would come out during the scouring process.
NotMrKnowItAll I had a look at that site you linked to. That was amazing - I worked on Australian sheep farms for years and I’ve never seen or even heard of half the things that were there. I suspect that flock sizes are a lot smaller in the UK and you guys give a lot more attention to individual sheep then we do.
They don’t shear right down to the skin (at least not the way you do when you shave your chin) so the residual hair poking through the skin would carry the paint with it as it grew. Come to think of it I’m sure I’ve seen sheep being marked soon after shearing.