‘They’re our sheep’: City schoolkids learn about life on the lamb

Last Friday, the Lix family of Camberwell went out to pick up some lamb.

No, they didn't go to the supermarket to buy meat for the Sunday roast.

Tanya Lix with her son Rory, 6, daughter Isobel, 4 and two lambs Fishy and Keg.Credit:Darrian Traynor

At Wattle Park Primary School in Burwood, they loaded two live lambs in the back of their station wagon and drove them home as part of the school’s lamb-raising program.

This winter and spring, students are looking after the lambs, named Fishy and Keg, who were lent by farmers.

On weekdays, the lambs are tended by children of essential workers, who still attend school.

And each weekend, kids doing remote learning take turns to take them home.

Tanya Lix, 30, of Camberwell, said Fishy and Keg have been eating everything but grass in her yard, including the azaleas and a prized monstera plant. But they had slept well on blankets in the laundry.

Ms Lix said her kids Rory, 6, and Isobel, 4, have been "following them everywhere" and declare proudly to passersby "these are our sheep".

Ms Lix said that given that extra-curricular activities are banned and even playgrounds are closed, the lambs provided some excitement, "rather than doing the same things, day in, day out".

Wattle Park Primary teacher Daniel Watts said hosting families must have no dogs or cats, a secure yard with plenty of grass, and secure shelter at night such as garage or shed.

The lambs can be walked on a lead, but a parent must be present so the lamb doesn’t pull free and run into traffic. "They don’t typically come back if you call them. They’re not like a dog," Mr Watts said.

Families have posted photos of lambs lounging next to pools in the sun, or sleeping on couches.

"They dress them up. They give them baths," Mr Watts said. "We’re not too stressed. As long as they’re well looked after, we don’t mind. And the lambs love being hugged and cuddled and are very friendly."

It’s the second year Wattle Park Primary has hosted lambs — in 2018 there was Rosie (Rosemary) and Mintie.

Rory, 6 and Isobel, 4 take the lambs for a walkCredit:Darrian Traynor

There is lots to learn, such as how sheep’s wool is turned into jumpers, how sheep only have teeth on their lower jaw, and how they are prone to poo indoors.

Kids often ask what happens to lambs when they get older.

Mr Watts is matter of fact — that these are meat sheep, "so eventually, their purpose in life is to become food".

"They come from big sheep farms so we say, eventually the lambs do become 'lamb'.

"Some kids make the connection and some, even with the lambs there, can’t get it, that if you eat a kebab or anything with lamb in it, you’re essentially eating a lamb that was once like what we have.

"A lot of them don’t like it, but it is what it is, and we always say, by being with us, the lambs have had a really fun life, and they’ve been looked after really well. They’ve had a good start to life."

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