The UMaine Student Government has recently recognized the Ewe-Maine Icelandic Sheep Club as an official club. During past years, the group was not officially recognized as a club by the university and has not received funding through Student Government.
The group has been meeting for approximately four years, and began as a research project in the animal science department. Members of the club are taught how to care for and manage the sheep. While the club originally consisted of students in the animal science major, it has since expanded to a diverse group of students from different educational tracks.
The initial goal was to house the sheep at Witter Farm, where students in the animal science school could take care of the animals, and to do more research on parasites that live on sheep and ways to prevent these parasites from spreading. The club has since shifted to focus on animal health and also attract more zoology students, who focus on animal behavior.
The club was funded through renewable grants that were able to cover the basic needs of the animals. Since the group was not officially recognized by the university, they could not receive any funding from Student Government. The class that began this club graduated, so the club wanted to put themselves out there to get some new faces at the farm.
While the group has relied on grants to pay for the expenses, the members began to seek recognition for other alternative methods of funding. They wanted additional resources that were not necessarily required for the wellbeing of the animals, such as enrichments and increasing the size of their pen.
The club is currently lead by Jaime Boulos, who is the president.
“As a pre-vet student, working with large animals has been a very special opportunity to garner veterinary experience,” she began. “Many universities don’t offer students the chance to have these experiences. Working with the sheep has also served as a significant destresser. It has been very rewarding to be able to know all of the animals as individuals and learning how to personally care for them.”
The goal for the club looking forward is to hopefully gain more traction and recruit a few marketing students in order to begin putting fleece on the market. The current ratio of pre-vet students and non-pre-vet students is pretty equal, according to members of the club.
“Our major goals of this club include maintaining a sound flock, holding events to educate the public about sheep care, and giving students the opportunity to learn from this club,” Boulos said.
The club meets every Friday at 2 p.m. at the J. Franklin Witter Farm, and new members are always welcome.