Flooding threatens band of Jacob sheep transported from Abbotsford to Israel

Shipping fever believed to be behind death of two sheep, while a dozen more are sick

  • Dec. 29, 2016 5:00 a.m.

Some of the Jacob sheep recently brought to Israel from Abbotsford have died or become sick due to treacherous weather conditions.

by Owen Munro, Abbotsford News

Treacherous weather conditions, including flooding, are being blamed for the death of two purebred Jacob sheep brought to Israel from an Abbotsford farm.

Around 100 of the 119 sheep have already landed in the country, but heavy rains and flooding caused an additional dozen more to become sick.

The poor weather conditions also knocked over some temporary structures that housed them. Gil and Jenna Lewinsky had coordinated the move of the biblical sheep from their Abbotsford farm to a village in southern Israel and says the sheep are struggling with the cold and wet conditions.

“We are working with the Israeli authorities to conserve the animals,” Gil Lewinsky said in an email. “We hope for a positive resolution.”

The road leading to the farm was also inaccessible, with ATV being the only way to reach the route to the temporary quarantine area.

Alex Lewinsky is in Abbotsford watching everything unfold and called the situation precarious. He said a private vet visited the sheep and recommended moving them, which the Israeli agricultural ministry is reportedly open to.

“Shipping fever can be blamed, there are around a dozen of them that have it,” he said. “It’s like sending someone to Siberia or something like that.”

Shipping fever is also known as bovine respiratory disease (BRD) and is a common problem for cattle, but it’s not uncommon for sheep or goats. Alex said the sheep are like family to the Lewinskys, and desperately want the government to help move them.

Moving the sheep from Canada has taken more than two years as Israel prohibits the importation of livestock due to potential diseases. Flights bringing over the remaining sheep have been temporarily postponed until conditions improve. The sheep had been in quarantine in Hamilton for the past month and were flown out of Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

The sheep have origins dating back more than 3,000 years ago to present-day Israel. They were approved on a one-time basis for tourism and research purposes; the Lewinskys hope to open an educational farm outside of Jerusalem.

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