English shepherd urges Australian sheep farmers to tell their story

Fiona Myers, August 13, 2018

James Rebanks gets to know some Australian sheep at Lambex 2018 in Perth.

AN English sheep producer who has more followers on Twitter than any other farmer in the world says he could return to the social media platform.

James Rebanks from the Lakes District in England has 112,100 followers on Twitter, but recently announced he would not be making any more tweets as @herdyshepherd1

In his final tweet, he said: “I’m done. Thank you to all the lovely people I have met and chatted with on here. Learnt loads from you all. Maybe I’ll pop back some day. But never intended to go this long.”

But Mr Rebanks told Sheep Central it was more of a hiatus that a complete break.

“I’m in the middle of writing a book and I’ve just got a new baby; I’m just snowed under with other responsibilities,” Mr Rebanks said.

“I also think people need a break from you.

“Maybe I’ll go back next summer (in the UK) when my book comes out.”

Twitter following was unexpected

Mr Rebanks wrote a book in the height of his Twitter stardom, The Shepherd’s Life, which was a Sunday Times number 1 and a New York Time bestseller. The book has been translated into 18 languages and has recently been released in China.

Mr Rebanks said he had enjoyed his foray on Twitter, but had never expected it to either go so long or be so successful.

“The nicest thing was the overwhelming majority of people really want to like farmers,” he said.

“If you give them half the chance, and you can be half decent and kind and patient, most people want to like you.”

Mr Rebanks said one of the things he had learnt was how close people are to farming and have some link with the land within a few generations of their family, but he acknowledged that sometimes his tweets can come under fire.

“Did I get grief? Yes, I did, but you have to remember that as the numbers grow, so do the number of nutters and you can’t take the minority quite so seriously.

“It many only be a small per cent that are nutters, but that’s still quite a few people when you have so many followers and it can be hard to take when you come in at the end of a hard-working day and I’ve had to train myself not to take that too seriously,” he said.

“And as an industry, I don’t think we are very good at that – there’s always going to be a nutter here and a nutter there, but the important thing is not to argue with these people.”

He said there was room for farmers in Australia to tell their story as he had done.

“Lots of other people can have that conversation and I’ve never felt it was all about me,” Mr Rebanks said.

“If other people can do that just as well, then I can have a bit of a breather.”

Mr Rebanks said tweeting became second nature. He had already been taking photos on his farm as part of monitoring the condition of his sheep.

He travelled to Australia to be a guest speaker at LambEx 2018 in Perth last week and was impressed with the Australian lamb industry.

But he said 80 percent of the things he had heard in terms of productivity or advances could not be used in his home farm situation.

“Twenty percent of the things I have heard I could do and it could make my operation better,” he said.

“Quite a lot of the things here are about very cleverly pursuing marginal gains.

“Those 20c/head gains or 50c/head gains are important if you are into thousands of sheep but if you are in the hundreds of sheep, like we are, the cost of doing those things just might not be worth it.”


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