Urban flock

Reportage on the hard life of a sheep shepherd in Lombardy in 2012

Urban flock

The flock between houses and factories

Observing a flock of over 1200 animals parading through the streets of Cenate Sotto, a village at the entrance to Val Cavallina, is now a reason for interest and surprise, people look out of the windows, mothers approach the little ones, but not too much, to animals they have seen. often only on television, the cars incredibly stop and without any protest they are caressed by the soft wool of the animals.

It would seem a happy and romantic picture but the truth is quite different; in just 8 years between 1999 and 2007 the province of Bergamo has seen a 7% reduction in the area destined for agriculture, while the anthropogenic area has increased by over 12%.

Leading a flock has never been so full of difficulties, obstacles and unforeseen events as Candido Rossi, a shepherd native of Casnigo, still in love with his work, tells me despite all the obstacles posed by continuous urbanization but also by a myopic and aggressive bureaucracy. Today, in addition to the usual worries in leading and managing a flock, taking care of its health, finding buyers, managing the occasional helpers, there is a new, daily one, increasingly difficult to manage: the search for a plot to feed the animals. In fact, every day the shepherd has to leave the flock in search of those meadows that he will no longer find, occupied by new industrial buildings, terraced houses, roads and highways, interchanges and roundabouts. A constant state of anxiety that you certainly would not expect to glimpse in the wrinkles of a man who leads a healthy, simple, essential life.

Candido was very kind in giving me the opportunity to share a few hours of his day with him, so I found myself surprised by the naturalness with which he lives such intense and special moments as the birth of a lamb, there, in the middle of a field already destined for new constructions, between cranes and mountains of debris. What at first I exchange for indifference is instead a sign of great professionalism, the shepherd cannot afford to lose control of 1200 head of cattle close to busy roads but at the same time, with the corner of his eye he follows the labor of the poor beast, ready to intervene should complications arise. This is how as soon as the lamb is brought to light, it is cleaned with warm and soft licks from the mother, only then Candido approaches and after having marked them I take the baby and place it in one of the donkey’s back bags that will keep it warm. and protected.

The day is coming to an end, the anxiety grows because a place for the night has not yet been found, and above all a field for the following day, but despite the “war” between shepherds in grabbing the few surviving plots in this land of houses and warehouses, Candido can count on some friends who come to his aid by showing him a nearby meadow; without wasting any more time, he gathers the cattle and takes the municipal road which, after a few hundred meters, takes them to the chosen field. The day is far from over, it is starting to get dark, but there are still lambs born a few days ago that must be taken to their mothers for breastfeeding, so you have to retrieve the horses in addition to the jeep and caravan left in the field of the previous night . Only now can Candide sit, rest, eat a bite and fall asleep, but always with one ear and one eye open, because out there, sheep, donkeys, lambs and horses may need his help.

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