Kennard, a shepherd, struggles to save his North Devon farm after a U.K.-wide outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
The nine-month-long epidemic—the first in the U.K. in more than 30 years—decimated livestock throughout the region and left farmers wondering about the future of agribusiness. Against this backdrop, Kennard (A Shepherd’s Watch, 2005) recounts the months following the epidemic, when the market value of lamb slumped to 1960s levels. As if that weren’t enough, one of Kennard’s flocks is diagnosed with pasteurella, the biggest single killer of sheep in the country. Kennard soldiers on, however, with the help of his wife, three children and several working dogs. The self-effacing author makes his canine crew the highlight here, and their stories are as absorbing as any soap opera. Alpha dog Greg is getting on in years; will volatile Ernie make a suitable replacement? Matriarch Swift has a tumor on her foot; is Fern, who frequently refuses commands, too high-strung to accept more responsibility? And there's newcomer Jake: Only 11 months old, and he seems to have the wisdom of a much older dog. Perhaps he’ll become the pack’s leader? With the farm’s finances in free-fall, Kennard looks for ways to make extra money. Sheep-shearing, while backbreaking work, brings in a few hundred pounds. But it’s an offhand notion, a weekly sheepdog demonstration for tourists, that provides the family with a tidy sum.
A loving tribute to an endangered way of life.