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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 April 2007, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Serbian farms seek good shepherds
Sheep in England (File pic)
Would you still love this sheep in deepest mid-winter?
Fit young people with a love of the outdoors now have a chance to escape the trials of city life - by working as a shepherd in the Serbian hills.

With young people leaving rural areas to live in Serbia's cities, farmers are desperately seeking willing workers.

Shepherds can earn a salary of 2.5 euros (1.70) per month per sheep, and with a healthy flock can earn close to the average monthly wage of 300 euros.

But sheep flocks have dwindled with the supply of shepherds in recent years.

While there were once 300,000 sheep grazing on the hills of eastern Serbia, there are now fewer than 10,000.

Getting workers here is like in the westerns I watched as a kid. A stranger comes out of nowhere, works for a while, then leaves
Aleksandar Vasov
Sheep farmer

That decline has affected the landscape, with plants and bushes taking over the plains without enough sheep to keep their growth in check.

Farmers say the struggle to find and keep good shepherds is one reason why the flocks are shrinking.

Another, they admit, is the tough nature of the work.

Wild West

"It's a difficult job," said Aleksandar Vasov, a farmer seeking fresh farmhands.

"Basically you're on call 24 hours a day, feeding them, taking them to the mountains, lambing them."

Map

"I once had 100 sheep, now I have 20 because I can't find anyone to help me," Ilko Dmitrov, 61, told the Reuters news agency.

"It's difficult to find good workers. Some are really cruel to the animals, they beat them. The only ones willing to work are pensioners."

"Getting workers here is like in the westerns I watched as a kid," Mr Vasov, 39, told Reuters.

"A stranger comes out of nowhere, works for a while, then leaves."

But some tough it out, like Sandor Balani, who has tended his 80 sheep for a decade now.

"It's hardest in winter when there is a lot of snow. But I would never give it up," he said.

Prospective applicants should head to Dimitrovgrad, eastern Serbia, and look for the job centre.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Serbia
02 Feb 07 |  Country profiles



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