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News - April 2008

Farmer feeds sheep Kool Aid to colour fleece

If you drive through Pranxton, Iowa you might be forgiven for thinking that you've stumbled across the filming of an advert for the latest Sony flat screen television - only instead of coloured rabbits you'll see coloured sheep!

The animals belong to sheep farmer Bill Stanton and his wife Velma and the colour isn't just a marker dye to distinguish flocks, the fleece actually grows that colour. And Bill's secret weapon? Kool Aid!

The colourants in Kool Aid are completely harmless to humans (and animals!) but due to the ruminant digestive process of a sheep the dyes aren't broken down and pass across into the wool. This bizarre phenomenon was discovered when Bill and Velma were bottle feeding a lamb whose mother had been killed by coyotes. As the lamb grew older Bill used Arctic Green Apple Kool Aid in the feeding bottles to wean the lamb from milk to solid food and over the course of a month noticed a green hue develop in the lamb's wool.

Bill and Velma now regularly add Kool Aid powder to the water troughs they leave out for the sheep and over the past year the whole flock has developed coloured fleece. Because the dye combines with the wool at a molecular level the colour is completely wash fast though the shades are not as deep as can be obtained by hand dyeing. "We do it just for fun" said Bill. "Sheep have always just been white so we thought it would brighten up the fields to have our sheep like a woolly rainbow".

Bill and Velma have been the subject of hate mail from animal rights groups in America but they insist that the sheep enjoy drinking the flavoured water and always use unsweetened Kool Aid to avoid long term dental problems for the animals.

Cows, goats and camelids such as llamas and alpacas all have a similar ruminant digestive process and should exhibit the same colour migrating tendencies so watch this space!

[Please note this story was first published on 01/04/08]

Sheep fed Kool Aid by Bill Stanton and his wife Velma have developed coloured fleece due to the ruminant digestive process

Kool Aid fed sheep add a rainbow hue to the Iowa plains on Bill and Velma Stanton's farm

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[All images and text © Debbie and Peter Tomkies 2008]