Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: New member. Looking to expand  (Read 548 times)


  • Joined Aug 2019
New member. Looking to expand
« on: August 10, 2019, 12:03:03 pm »
Hello all.
Have just come across TAS for the first time. I live in mid-Wales with my family. We have around 4.5 acres of pasture available divided into two fields with permanent access to fresh water. Currently a local farmer grazes the land. We have raised a pair of Weaners every year for the last 8 years and have chickens. We are now looking to have a small flock of our own sheep. At the moment my son favours Zwartbles (seen at the Royal Welsh Show) but I’d prefer Ryelands (my Herefordshire origins) or even Jacobs. This web site is going to be brilliant. Any advice will be greatly received.

Mad Goatwoman of Madeley

  • Joined Sep 2011
  • Telford
Re: New member. Looking to expand
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2019, 11:56:00 pm »
No advice from me, I’m afraid, but just wanted to welcome you to the forum.  :wave:


  • Joined Feb 2017
  • High Peak
Re: New member. Looking to expand
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2019, 06:38:18 am »
Morning and welcome. So much good advice on here from really experienced people, you’ll be glad you’ve found it! I’m not super experienced but replying to you as we have kept our first sheep, a small flock of Coloured Ryelands for the last 3 years. They are lovely to look at, incredibly calm and friendly. However, we are currently in the process of changing our flock over to Jacobs. 2 reasons really. The first is that we bought them originally fully intending to show only to realise that we couldn’t actually be bothered! In my opinion, unless you show, you cannot easily sell your live lambs as the market is pretty flooded out there now with show sheep with good names. So, we have ended up selling mostly meat BUT I have found the carcasses very fatty (even though we don’t feed other than at lambing time or very wintry conditions as we have so much grass). The meat is delicious though if you can cope with the fat. But we now want a leaner carcass while still having a good looking breed that decorates our fields.  The second reason is, it may be just ours, but they are not particularly hardy. They have to lamb inside and the feet on ours seem to grow like the clappers so we have to check feet and foot trim more regularly than I’m sure any commercial breed farmer does.  We have been recommended Jacobs by a farmer friend of ours as good looking, easy lambing and hardy, lean and tasty. But we will see. I’m sure other people will have a different opinion to mine.


  • Joined Aug 2019
Re: New member. Looking to expand
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2019, 07:26:00 pm »
Thanks for responses MG of M and Camdee.
Very interesting to hear your thoughts on Ryelands. We are slightly up in the hills here and so the climatic conditions are not quite as good as further down the Wye valley, can keep bees successfully but they just about provide enough for themselves and don’t provide any real surplus to extract. Maybe a hardier breed may be better, there are other small Jacobs flocks around. Do you have any thoughts on Zwartbles?
As I mentioned we are hilly here more not true upland.


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: New member. Looking to expand
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2019, 08:30:49 pm »
Hello and welcome.

There are a whole lot of very similar questions to yours in the old posts on TAS so when you have time spend some of it going through some of those threads as there's some very relevant info out there.  We all have our own favourite sheep - from my avatar you can see which is mine!  :hugsheep:
In the past we have kept several breeds including Jacobs, Shetlands, and Soay, but tops is the Hebridean, in our case the Ancient multihorned Type.
I have never been attracted to Zwartbles partly I think because they are not a native breed, but also because they are so big.  We eat some sheep meat, but only the males which don't make the grade of being a good breeding tup, so the size of Zwartbles is a negative for us.  Also it rankles in my pedantic mind that no-one pronounces their breed name, which is Dutch, correctly.
Where we live, in the rain, foul weather and a certain degree of mud, Ryelands would not do well.  For us the Primitives do best, are great milky mothers, independent, self reliant, produce spinning fleeces, lamb usually without assistance and are all great characters.  Jacobs fit into that picture in most respects, but I would say don't buy from a show topping flock - they are likely to be bred for showing and not for all the other excellent qualities of the breed.  Someone is bound to take umbrage at that comment, but it is just my opinion.  On the plus side, Jacobs produce a sizeable meat carcase, albeit a different shape compared to commercials when hung up (you can always pick out your carcases in a line-up  :thumbsup: ), they can be good mothers, but have a tendency to have triplets which leads to complications, they can get droopy udders, BUT their fleece can be great if you choose your stock carefully, and the lambs are beyond cute.  Jacobs are also hardier than some people think.  When we got our first ewes we were told that they had to lamb indoors.  From the start we had problems until we let them lamb out side with the other breeds, when they were perfectly fine.
Of your three suggestions, I would go for the Jacobs.  As new breeders, they are easy to manage and handle, they are hardy, they are beautiful, you can sell their fleece and the tanned lamb skins, and you can sell the lambs for a good price for good stock (don't try to sell breeding tups until you really know what you are on about - that probably applies to most breeds.)

You will get a whole choice of suggestions from other TASers, so go and look at all three breeds, talk to a few owners of each.  You could maybe start with a couple of wethers of whichever breed, just to learn a bit about sheep and what they are about.  Get them to slaughter age (about 7-8 months for Jacobs) then you can see what they taste like.  If you don't like them after all, then eat them and try again.  That's the big advantage with sheep - if you don't like them, or you change your mind about keeping them, then eat them  :yum:

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus - let sleeping dragons lie


  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: New member. Looking to expand
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2019, 09:59:33 pm »
Hiya,  We keep Zwartbles and they have both good and bad points, both within the breed and within individual flocks / animals. There are plenty of threads on here about them, so I won't repeat all that. What I would say though, is don't let their size worry you - they're so docile that IME they're easier to handle than smaller but feistier sheep.

If you have any specific questions about them, just ask on here or PM me  :thumbsup: .
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett


  • Joined Nov 2013
  • Cambridgeshire
Re: New member. Looking to expand
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2019, 04:52:24 am »
I also have coloured ryelands and some experience of a few other breeds.  I don't get the feet comment the feet are fine and I trim if there is a problem(rarely). Lambing is ok. They tend to be kept as small hobby flock and maybe that attracts a lot of indoor lambing/ high intervention keepers. One year I had a ram that produced big heads which was a bit tricky with the first timers otherwise ok. As to sale price - well with any breed if you are breeding to sell for showing then you need to show to achieve best price. If not then lambs are for meat aren't they.?


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