Sarah Rollinson didn’t set out to have five lambs as pets. No, her plan was to rehabilitate them and send them happily out into the world to their ‘forever’ homes. Problem is, she falls in love with them. Sarah doesn’t think she’s doing anything special or out of the ordinary, but how many people do you know who pack up their family, move to a farm and become a foster carer for orphaned and unwanted farm animals?
“We’ve been on the farm for a year,” says Sarah. “We were living on a normal house block in a family home in Rosebud. We looked around and secured 10 acres in Moorooduc. We thought 10 acres would be too much; now we feel like it’s not enough.”
At the start of the pandemic, Sarah decided to find out about fostering lambs as a way of “giving back”. Her starting point was to apply to animal welfare organisations that work with foster carers. Sarah is now a registered foster carer with Lamb Care Australia and ‘Til The Cows Come Home. “I’ve ended up adopting every lamb I’ve looked after. They have their own personalities and they live inside for so long I just want to keep them.”
Lamb Care Australia is a not-for-profit registered charity that rescues and rehomes orphaned lambs born during the lambing season in Victoria. ‘Til The Cows Come Home is an adoption charity for farmed animals. Its mission is to rescue suffering farmed animals, rehabilitate them with the help of foster carers and then rehome them. The organisation has cows, birds, pigs, sheep, chickens and horses all in need of care and adoption.
Orpheus, Ludo, Krumpet, Jepp and Iggy are just five of the calves lucky enough to have found their way into Sarah’s care – care that can involve night feeds, nappy changes, dressing in warm coats, vet visits and of course lots of cuddles and pats. In addition to lambs and calves, Sarah has Peanut and Buckley. Both are rescued french bulldogs. “The dogs have spina bifida; they’re both incontinent so wear nappies. I’m teaching my kids that everything deserves a life even if they’re born not quite how they’re supposed to be.” And if that’s not enough to take care of, Sarah’s next project – or her builder husband’s next project – is building a sanctuary for battery hens “so I can take in 200-300 hens at a time”.
Sarah’s friends urged her to set up a Facebook group so they can keep up with happenings on the farm and follow the progress of the animals. “I celebrate the animals’ birthdays, their milestones, so people can see that livestock animals are living creatures, that they can be rewarding and therapeutic as having a cat or dog. People thank me for bringing awareness to how animals are treated and say it brightens their day to see the animals. It puts a smile on their face. I’ve found a real passion for what I’m doing.”
The nature of Sarah’s work with vulnerable animals means there are some sad times too. “When I have animals arrive malnourished or sick and I’ve done everything I can for them and still they die, I know they’ve known love and kindness and had care during that time. It’s just part of what we do.”
If you’d like to become a farm animal foster carer or make a donation, visit www.tilthecowscomehome.org or www.lambcareaustralia.org.au; you can also join Sarah’s Facebook group @Stonehaven Farm.