During summer, nearly all Norwegian goats/sheeps are released for open grazing that generally lasts for around three months. I took this image near a barn in May but now almost all barns are empty.
Approximately two million sheep are grazing in the outlying fields of Norway every summer. That’s unique, and something that you won’t experience elsewhere.
“In Norway, the resource situation is different than in the rest of Scandinavia and other comparable countries. Only three per cent of Norway’s landmass is arable land, but 45 percent is usable or excellent grazing land”, says Tone Våg, sheep farmer and leader of the Norwegian Sheep and Goat Association.
Våg continues: “Norwegian agriculture is dependent on the extra resource of the outlying fields, and pasture is an important source of income for Norwegian farms”.
Sheep grazing in outlying fields have free access to whatever they want to eat. That makes the Norwegian sheep happy.
“When you’re taking the sheep to their summer grazing land in the mountains you can hear the happy sounds from the herd. You can tell from how they’re acting that they remember from year to year”, Våg says.
Grazing without fences allows the sheep to act more in tune with their instincts, and they naturally divide into smaller groups with individuals closely related to one another.
If you occasionally encounter sheep far into the wild, you normally don’t need to worry: “Sheep recognises where they are, and they know where they are going” Våg says.
The green caretakers
Whilst out grazing, it occasionally happens that sheep get ill, get stuck or lost – or that they encounter predators. They are, however, not completely left to themselves.
“It’s statutory to check on flock at least once a week during the whole summer. Therefore, it’s not only the tourists who can enjoy the sight of sheep grazing in the nature. I feel privileged that I can take my family with me into the mountains to look after the animals as a part of my regular work”, Våg says.
Another factor is that grazing sheep are preventing the landscape from overgrowing and maintains the biodiversity in the Norwegian nature. According to Våg, almost 300 endangered species are dependent on the Norwegian cultural landscape.
“It’s not overgrown nature the tourists come to see”, says the farmer.
My first entry to Photo a day Challenge