Olaf And Fritz Kolecki
Loud bleating, bleating and barking can be heard as one approaches the barn of the Kolecki sheep farm in Schönwalde near Berlin. A harmonious mix of endangered country sheep, guard dogs and goats enlivens the stables building. The ewes are awaiting their lambs, it is lambing season.
Olaf Kolecki has been keeping sheep for many years, since 1998 when he retired as a farrier, it was more of a calming substitute occupation but since 2016 he has been running the sheep farm professionally and full-time.
He has specially dedicated himself to the dying breeds, the preservation of these animals is very important to him and you can feel this when you listen to him. His passion is really visible when he talks about his animals; he finds the different characters of the sheep particularly fascinating. Walking through the barn, you meet a colourful but a very harmonious mix of animals. Landrace of Bentheim, Skudde, Pomeranian sheep, goats, Merino sheep, guard dogs and Jacob sheep share their accommodation. Visitors should be aware and be careful of the big dogs; they provide excellent security here in the barn. However, they demand intensive daily cuddling sessions from the shepherd.
Primarily, the flocks are used for landscape maintenance and Olaf Kolecki oversees grazing projects in a large radius around Schönwalde. This means that after the lambing season in spring, a more busy and stressful time begin because then he has to be on the road more often not with the sheep, no as they are allowed to be in the meadows and protect the landscape from shrub encroachment but the distances between the individual flocks are so big that he has to plan his daily route well so that he can drive to all of them in one go, look after them and then go to Schönwalde to look after his animals that tend the land around the barn.
Where there used to be cannons and aeroplanes, Olaf's sheep and goats now graze on an area of 110 hectares, the shepherd's barn stands on the edge of an old air base. In the past, up to 8000 soldiers were housed here. In the meantime, however, nature has long since reclaimed this area.
Olaf's son Fritz has also been on board for 2 years. The 20-year-old has decided to train as a shepherd – because he wants to take responsibility for his fellow human beings, the animals and above all the environment. In this day and age such a decision takes a lot of courage but his love for the animals he grew up with made the decision making quite easy. You can see his passion from afar as well, the way they both burn for these animals is a delight!
"THE WORK IS SOMETIMES HARD, BUT RIGHT NOW WHEN YOU SEE THE LAMBS GROWING UP IN LAMBING SEASON, OTHER THINGS DOESN’T MATTER."
Nevertheless, father and son also have to contend with some challenges here in Brandenburg. Olaf points, above all the majority amount of time is taken to deal with the authorities. He is currently fighting for funding for the upkeep of his guard dogs. The guard dogs, which are supposed to protect the sheep from the wolf, cost about 2,500 EUR per dog per year. He reports of large sheep farms that have stopped keeping sheep altogether not because of the wolf and not because of the sheep but because of the costs for the guard dogs. If you are near or in the immediate wolf area, in his example you need 50 dogs to adequately protect the flocks. Unfortunately, the costs that arise from this cannot be met with sheep farming.
"But the greater challenge is actually the people running around the sheep or strangers who think the sheep is not looking well they usually call the veterinary office thinking that there is something wrong with the sheep. To clarify such cases takes up an enormous amount of time, which we could actually invest better with the sheep."
"I am actually a farrier by profession. But I've been retired since 1998 that's why I can't practise any more, and you have to have something to do. So the sheep thing actually seemed reassuring to me."