Amanda Owen, 46, admitted to Ben Fogle on an episode of Return to the Wild on Channel 5, about the struggles she faced during an outbreak of foot and mouth disease which affected their whole farm life. She broke down in tears as she explained to Ben the family felt isolated and remote watching her sheep be taken away and slaughtered.
Ben explained to viewers: “I could sense the pride Amanda had in her flock, both her and Clive had strived to make this life work.
“But in 2001 they faced their biggest challenge when an outbreak of foot and mouth threatened their entire livelihood.”
He asked Amanda: “How does this affect you?”
“I think at that point it would be the time we felt the most isolated and the most remote and to look out the bedroom window and to see the Cumbrian sheep being gathered and taken away to be slaughtered, and realising we were that one step away from losing everything,” she explained.
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“Just horrendous, we lost a third of our flock because we send sheep away during the winter so all the sheep we sent away they never came back.
“People say well you know you can replace sheep just buy some more but it doesn’t work like that round here.”
“The sheep have always been here if we leave, the sheep stay so it’s their whole pedigree, their hoofing system, how they have homing instincts down their patch would have been a disaster.
“It even now brings a lump to my throat thinking about it, it was terrible,” she explained to Ben.
He asked: “It still haunts you?”
“Yeah, it was terrible, it really was,” she agreed before wiping away a tear.
“I came here to live I brought with me one turn over crate, two sheepdogs and a handful of very petted sheep and of course they were there as well so, lost them.”
Seeing how emotional Amanda got, Ben interjected: “That was your life your livelihood, everything you aspired to.”
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“Absolutely,” she quickly agreed, “People say well you can’t know each one of these sheep on an individual basis because you have a lot of them.
“But it doesn’t mean that you don’t have that same affection for them because if you weren’t bothered about them you wouldn’t do this job!” Amanda exclaimed.
“You’re always striving to do your best so yeah, sorry about that,” she said, laughing with Ben.
“Don’t worry,” Ben comforted her. “It’s still really raw, and the fact it can still bring tears to her eyes is a testament to how it destroyed so many lives.
“A lot of us just think yeah replace the sheep it’s fine, just bring in some new ones but it’s not as simple as that.
“That goes beyond my own comprehension those flocks, those herds, couldn’t just be replaced they have been built up over centuries,” he explained.
Ben Fogle visited Amanda and Clive Owen’s farm in Ravenseat to see how they live their lives and run their farm.
He stayed on their farm in a shepherd’s hut to learn how they function around the farm with their nine children.
Ben Fogle: Return To The Wild is available to catch up on My 5 now.
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