Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It's a dirty job...

But somebody's got to do it

My headlong rush of words is going to dry up a bit in the next couple of days. Which is a pity as I was beginning to build up a momentum.

Those of you who really ought to know better, but keep coming back here month after month nonetheless, may recall an incident I reported on last year, involving the technique well known in animal research called the Faecal Grab Sample. I vowed never again, but the technician who awkwardly fell ill last year has succumbed to a relapse in his malady just at the time when all those little sheep need testing again for worms. And since I've been trained in this subtle art, it falls to me to fill in.

So all day Thursday, and in the afternoon on Friday, I shall be mostly driving around South Wales in an elderly Land Rover, visiting farms where small flocks of unsuspecting sheep have been gathered.

Actually, it's not quite as bad as last year. Since this is what is known as 'mob sampling', it's no longer necessary to identify which sheep produced which particular stool - the whole lot get mixed together and a result extrapolated for the entire flock.

I still have to wander in amongst a gathering of nervous sheep, picking up likely-looking lumps of excreta, preferably from ten different animals. Waterproof trousers and Wellington boots are essential, as are at least two pairs of latex gloves. At least sheep are vegetarian; their shit is a lot less unpleasant than that of some animals. I never fancied working in canine nutrition, for instance. And I really pity the poor buggers* who do research into what humans eat.

But there have to be better ways of earning a living than picking up warm sheep shit and putting it in little plastic bottles.

On the plus side, it's a day and a half's work, most of which is just driving around. Maybe I won't be totally skint at Harrogate after all. And if people complain that I smell funny, I can always go and stand next to John**.

* pun intended.
** apparently he smells of whelks


Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Well, it can still serve for some anecdotes like, "back when I had to make a living collecting sheep poop..." when you're rich and famous.

May 23, 2006 10:47 pm  

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