Chhimi Dema  | Phobjikha 

Sati, 54, from Phobjikha, had 100 sheep a few years ago. The number of sheep gradually dropped to 20 last year. The last flock of sheep was sold to others in the village last year. 

Like Sati, many villagers have sold their sheep because of increasing attacks by wild animals and with no one to look after them.

The Jakar-type sheep, found in Phobjikha, is among the four native breeds of sheep in Bhutan besides Sakteng, Sibsoo and Sarpang.

According to the Livestock Census 2021, there are 10,694 sheep in the country and 757 of them are in Wangdue.

The number of sheep in the country dropped from 11,466 sheep in 2019 to 10,793 in 2020.

Passang Tobgay, 35, from Namphey village, said that compared to previous years, the number of sheep has been dropping.

He said that some households in the gewog have sold their sheep to farms in Bumthang, Merak and Sakten. “People sold the sheep because it was difficult to manage them, and the wild and stray dogs attacked and killed the sheep.”

Last year, from the group, 90 sheep were sold to Merak and Sakten, and 40 sheep to Bumthang.

Incidences of wild dogs entering sheep pens and killing some of them have been reported in Phobjikha for some years now.

Locals say that there is hardly any income from sheep farming.

Research from 2017 by three researchers from the agriculture ministry pointed out that sheep farming is increasingly becoming less attractive in the face of better alternative income sources such as potatoes and cordyceps.

Passang Tobgay said that it is difficult to manage the flock and without financial gains, people lose interest.

He added that the practice of weaving woollen blankets and clothes has died with the advent of easily available imported commodities.

The country, in 2021, produced 5.8 metric tonnes of wool, a decrease of five percent from 2020.

Gangtey Gup Kinley Gyeltshen said that in near future, the sheep rearing practice could vanish altogether.

He said that working out solutions to address the predator issue and making sheep rearing economically viable could revive the interest of the villagers to continue sheep rearing.

In Phobjikha gewog, the Samdrup Phuentsho Lug Detshen (sheep rearing group) has 21 members today. The group was formed in 2016 with support from the livestock department.

The members were trained to make wool felt toys which were sold during the annual Black-necked Crane festival.

The livestock department provided machines to process wool, roof and fencing for sheep pens. Currently, sheep graze in a place called Radhi La near Trongsa.