Following several widely reported 'friendly fire' incidents involving live sheep, the UK's premier shepherding college based in Buxton in Derbyshire has announced that they are making plans to use air-powered blanks when new courses begin in September. 'Our sheep replacements are much more resilient to typical abuse than their genuine mutton-based counterparts,' said chief shepherd Cliff Reiser. 'These synthetic sheep will not be traumatised by stubble rash or experience debilitating crook strain injuries brought about by cack-handed droving and irresolute shearing.'
Not everything about the change has run smoothly so far. 'We do have some teething problems like slow punctures and the occasional catastrophic explosion to overcome,' said Mr Reiser, 'particularly when it comes to the dipping tanks, where there is a tendency for these new syntha-sheep to avoid a decent wool dowsing by bobbing along on the surface. We've had to attach unwieldy weights to their ankles just to get them to stay upright.' The college has also had to turn away several stag parties who, having seen a replica flock in nearby training fields, appeared to 'get the wrong idea'.
Concerns have also been raised by longstanding shepherds about the lack of real-world experience that graduates of the college will have. 'Where will these youngsters learn the art of storytelling to soothe the jangled nerves of tupping rams caught in a thunderstorm, and the cleaning up afterwards?' asked Alf Baker, a shepherd for nearly fifty years. 'How will they counsel them to handle a skitty, frantic lamb during a severe barbed-wire wool entanglement? I have no doubt that these yarn-covered PVC replacements will give them a decent grounding in the important art of ewe seduction techniques and will certainly teach them the correct shagging angle, but they ought to be using live sheep at all times to keep them on their toes.'
The college says it has been mulling the change for some years, but was forced to take the step after one sheep died and two others were injured following some 'over exuberant roughhousing' from young shepherds during post-exam celebrations. 'We have our suspicions that the party was gate-crashed by the scummy southern University of Goat Herders,' said Mr Reiser, 'but when challenged about it they just waved their cider flagons at us and told us to flock off. Cheeky buggers! They soon changed their tune when we set our new robot dogs on them!'
[COALITION ARTICLE WITH JP1885]