aaasheepOne of the advantages of getting up very early is that every morning I can listen to Farming Today on BBC Radio 4. There is not much I do not know, for example, about the debate raging over bovine tuberculosis and plans to cull badgers or about the imminent threat from blue tongue and the calls for pre-emptive vaccination. This morning’s programme was about sheep farmers. For many, especially those rearing hardy sheep on mountainsides, it now costs more to shear a sheep (over a pound) than the resulting fleece is worth (under a pound). And so farmers are increasingly looking to breeds of sheep that grow hair, rather than wool, and others that naturally shed their wool rather than having to be sheared. Yesterday we walked again past the site where a beautiful curtain of black poplars stood until recently (see 27 March post). ‘It’s a crime!’ declared my better half. But in the end we agreed that, whilst it was a tragedy, it wasn’t a crime; just sheer economics. Soon, it seems, we might be saying farewell to the woolly sheep for the same reason.