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Author Topic: What breed/breeds would be suitable?  (Read 8331 times)

Steel

  • Joined Aug 2017
What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« on: August 16, 2017, 09:54:55 am »
Morning all

Newbie here  :wave: Can I get some breed advice and ideas from you please?

I will be getting some sheep this year. I'm technically a beginner - an aunt had a sheep farm in Wales that I got packed off to as a nipper during holidays (until I discovered parties and alcohol as a teenager), so I have some knowledge of handling and health management - just need to get my mojo back after 30 years of not being around sheep so I'm going back to first principles.

Only want to keep a couple of ewes to produce lambs for the freezer, a breed suited to flat damp ground and relatively robust but handle-able but could maybe run to hogget if I fancied trying that. Like to get a bit of decent wool off them if possible to keep my fingers occupied over the winter.  :knit: Ideally, I'd like to support rare breeds and would be looking to buy pregnant ewes this year (having had at least one trouble-free lambing the previous) to give me a bit more time to research that side of things ready for tupping next year. I have already ruled out the longwools, as I feel that they will be a more labour intensive when it comes to fly-strike vigilance than a shorter fleeced breed.

I live in South Lincs, have a half acre paddock (hence why really I can only have two ewes) with fruit trees covering a third, under which is rougher forage, and all surrounded by natural hedging (there is stock proof fencing in place within the hedges). We haven't been long at this property, but know the previous owner had sheep in the paddock in 2015. He used to let a local farmer run about eight of his animals in there to keep the grass down during the spring and summer. I can see the paddock grass is a mixture of different grazing species and am working on improving the condition and drainage, although it is pretty good soil - this used to be agricultural ground before the previous owners bought it, and everything seems to grow well on it.   

Any ideas? Researched Cotswolds this morning and quite liked the qualities of them...
« Last Edit: August 16, 2017, 10:24:41 am by Steel »
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Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2017, 10:28:16 am »
Romneys for good feet on wet land?  Gail Sprake, quite near you, would have some good Southdowns.

Steel

  • Joined Aug 2017
Re: What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2017, 03:28:27 pm »
Oh my word, MF! Southdown's are cute - they have fleece on their faces! Is there a higher stocking density per acre for this breed?

Thanks for the tip about Gail - just realised who she is.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2017, 03:38:59 pm by Steel »

Backinwellies

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  • Joined Sep 2012
  • Llandeilo Carmarthenshire
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Re: What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2017, 03:58:35 pm »
 Llanwenogs ... rare breed , great spinning and dying wool, handleable size and lovely nature
Linda

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crobertson

  • Joined Sep 2015
Re: What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2017, 09:16:25 pm »
Derbyshire gritstones! - brought 1 last year and now i've sold all my ewes and replacing with gritstones ! :)

roddycm

  • Joined Jul 2013
Re: What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2017, 10:15:55 pm »
Keep in mind sheep will bark fruit trees! For reduced acreage you could go with one of the smaller native breeds like shetlands, soay or go continental and get ouessant sheep!

Good luck!

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2017, 10:37:44 am »
Keep in mind sheep will bark fruit trees! For reduced acreage you could go with one of the smaller native breeds like shetlands, soay or go continental and get ouessant sheep!

Good luck!


Problem with small rare breeds is they quite often don't finish until 12+ months, by which time the ewes would be lambing again and such a small area will become quite heavily overstocked.


Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2017, 11:41:20 am »
Oh my word, MF! Southdown's are cute - they have fleece on their faces! Is there a higher stocking density per acre for this breed?
Thanks for the tip about Gail - just realised who she is.
Same stocking density - we've noticed ours eat about 40% less hay than our Badger Face when they're in the shed for lambing.  Docile nature and slow metabolism, maybe.  Gail's been Secretary of the Southdown Sheep Society for years, and is now Chairman of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2017, 06:55:31 pm »
You've mentioned using the fleece :spin: :knit:, that longwools may be prone to fly strike and that you have some woodland they'd need to graze.  And that you'd like to support rare breeds.

People say that Shropshires are less prone to debarking trees, although I think all sheep will nibble young trees.  The fleeces should be very usable.

Southdown is one of my least favourite spinning fleeces, I'm afraid.  So very short it's really not a novice spin. 

Cotswold has a long fleece and I think would be as bad as any long wool in terms of propensity to get fly strike. Although any fleeced sheep can get struck.

Romney is also very fully fleeced but the fleece is pretty much always very appealing to spinners.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Steel

  • Joined Aug 2017
Re: What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2017, 09:58:18 am »
Thanks for the responses all. There's such a lot of breeds to think about!

The previous owners have very helpfully wrapped chicken wire around the trunks of all of the trees, so hopefully debarking won't be an issue. I have to go out and loosen it a bit every now and then to allow the trees to grow. I was working on a stocking density of five per acre, so a sensible choice would be two for my paddock, however, I'm concerned about having just two animals of any kind. If anything happens to one of them, it leaves the other on its own. Being flock animals, I imagine that would be very stressful for a sheep, especially if it has lambs, and there would be a period of quarantine and then adjustment if I brought in a replacement. I was wondering whether to attempt three and carefully manage the food resources by splitting the paddock down the middle to use in rotation and supplement feed. That and pray for no triplets

Twizzl - I hadn't considered the overlap, especially if I ran them to hogget so thanks for pointing that out. Something else to consider in the mix. It might be best for me not to do hogget until I have access to more land.

MF - I recognised her name through the RBST. If Southdowns have a slow metabolism, can they easily run to fat?

crobertson - why do you like Derbyshire Gritstones? Why do they work for you?

SallintNorth - I'll be sending the clean fleeces away to be processed and just knitting the results so spinning won't be such an issue. Looking at someone like Halifax Mill, which I understand does small batches.

In terms of breeds, I've been through all of the suggestions, compared their characteristics and read blogs and forum posts from owners.

I think Soay has to be ruled out for 'quirky behavioural traits', one of which seems to be hard to catch. I think I need something a little more sedate in nature with less primitive instinct to flee until I get my mojo back. Ouessant I'm going to rule out as well - I'd prefer a native rare breed, although their small size is appealing. Cotswold is also out - I want to get more experience spotting fly strike before keeping longer fleeced breeds.

Shropshires - like the dense medium fleece and are good foragers, especially under fruit trees apparently, although they seem a little on the large size. It will be me mostly handling them and I'm quite short. They have a gentle disposition. Little bit concerned about the lambing percentage...triplets not uncommon.

Romney - fleece is tiny bit on the long size so concerned that fly strikes might be hard to spot, and again they are big sheep, however they mature relatively early so there won't be the issue with overlap. Good feet.

With medium to large fleeced breeds like Romneys and Shropshires, is there a higher risk of casting? Or is that this more of an individual trait, and dependent on when they're shorn?

Derbyshire Gritstones - hill sheep good for grazing semi-natural vegetation of varying heights, easy to handle, mature early so no overlap problems, but is my paddock going to be enough for them? Being hill sheep, will they be happy on flat ground with a bit of challenging vegetation here and there or are they going to go looking for excitement in all the wrong places?

Llanwenogs - these look quite good. Slightly smaller so easier for me to handle, quite docile, and not likely to give me triplets so might be easier to plan paddock maintenance around.

Southdown - love the look, smaller breed so easier to handle, early maturing, docile, good feet, multiples common but triplets not so much.

I must confess, I'm tending towards either Southdowns, Llanwenogs or Gritstones, the latter mostly on its ability to handle the rougher foliage under the trees.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2017, 10:09:52 am by Steel »

pharnorth

  • Joined Nov 2013
  • Cambridgeshire
Re: What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2017, 07:19:53 pm »
Suggest you also consider Ryelands.  Similar characteristics to the Southdowns popular with spinners.

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2017, 09:25:16 pm »
Most Down and lowland breeds will run to fat if they're on good grazing for long enough and/or aren't put in lamb every year.  I put netting around some fruit trees and the Badger Face ewes just pushed it up the trunk.  Shropshires will nibble young growth just as much as any other breed - I sold the foundation stock of a Southdown flock to a Christmas tree farm that'd tried Shropshires because of their tree-friendly reputation, found they weren't and decided to fence off the trees and go for a breed they really liked instead.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2017, 07:19:01 am »
Gritstones and Llanwenogs will both give you nice yarn from nice fleeces.  Llanwenogs softer than Gritstone, but Gritstone is one of the nicer of the hill breeds.  Southdowns are lovely sheep but I think you are likely to be disappointed in the yarn.  Yes Paul will process small batches of fleece, even a single fleece.  But it is down to you to skirt and present the fleece properly; if what you send in has second cuts and / or rough bits, the yarn will disappoint.

Talking about Gritstones has made me wonder if you've looked at Whitefaced Woodland?  Even nicer fleece than the Gritstone, and I think they are pretty docile in a small flock.  The breed is classed as vulnerable, so more in need of help than the others on your list.  They're not small though - similar size to the Gritstone.  Sounds like triples are rare, though, which would suit you.

If you are happy that the trees are well protected then have you considered Shetlands?  Lovely fleeces, a small flock should be very tame.  In your circs I'd always advise buying hand tame sheep in the first place, of whatever breed; go and see the flock at hime if you can and see how the sheep behave with their owner.

Another thought, with nice fleece, rare, not large, more likely to have single lambs and hardly ever triplets, would be Portland.  Seriously cute fox red lambs :love: :sheep:.  Both Portland and Shetland lambs would probably be better as hogget, but if you don't lamb too early in Spring I'd have thought you should be able to get the lambs away before the next year's crop are actually born. 

I've known people with very very tame Soay sheep, so if they float your boat I wouldn't discount them.  They shed their fleece, though, of course, and are tiny with a tiny fleece, so perhaps not worth trying to get yarn spun.

If you like Soay but want something a little larger with a slightly more usable fleece, what about Castlemilk Moorit?  Again, choose the supplier carefully so you get tame ones, but they are lovely elegant animals.  They have good feet and are supposed to have some natural resistance to fly strike.  The fleece is very fine, if properly clipped and presented makes a beautiful silky soft yarn.  Choose sheep from a flock with a bit of length to the fleece (some are very short and would give similar problems to Southdown) and make sure there is no kemp or guard hair in any of the sheep in the flock.

I love helping people choose their breed :)
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2017, 07:39:36 am »
I'm surprised none of us has suggested getting a few cade lambs in the first instance.  You'd be able to get your hand back in, if you get a commercial type from your local farmer they'd probably be fat enough to go off before winter if you wanted.   You might find that actually, getting a few cades each year works better for you than having either larger sheep whose lambs are away before winter, or smaller ones which mean you have five or six ovines through the winter.

And on your point about two or three... It's usually me that says 'Please consider having three', for the very reason you've given.  However, you really don't have a great deal of ground, and, if you decide on getting ewes and breeding, there will be lambs around for a good part of the year, so you'd only be down to two for a short while - especially if you go for one of the smaller types and carry the lambs through to spring.  (But of course you'd then have five or six in total through the winter.).  If you went the cade route, you could get three or four, and hopefully have them away before winter, so the ground could recover for the next lot. 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Steel

  • Joined Aug 2017
Re: What breed/breeds would be suitable?
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2017, 04:06:25 pm »
Oooooooo...more lovely breeds to consider!

Did think about cade lambs but think they would actually be much more work with all the feeding and protection against the foxes required. I work from home most days but do occassionally have to go off to visit clients and I'd be concerned leaving them. I would prefer them to have the protection of their mothers.

I shall be back a bit later to reply a bit more...my sodding cat has just caught a weasel and got himself sprayed. The stink!  :yuck:

 

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