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Other Sheep Breeds we keep

In addition to the main flocks of Balwens, Gotlands and Shropshires, we also have a variety of other rare sheep breeds kept mainly for educational purposes. During our Introduction to Sheep Keeping courses one comment we repeatedly receive is that it was really useful to see the difference in size, nature, wool quality, meat cover etc of our 3 different breeds of sheep. So, with that in mind, we have added some individual sheep of breeds that smallholders typically start with and a couple that we were keen to try, details of which are all below. It would be impractical to keep rams for each breed as well as the main flocks, so we are unlikely to breed these individual sheep pure, but we will match them with rams that are similar in size and see what interesting results we get...

We kept some strikingly marked Kerry Hill Sheep for a couple of years but found that they did not thrive on our north-facing clay ground, so reluctantly made the decision to disperse the flock in the autumn of 2009. We still have a few ewes left at the farm. Further details of breed standards can be found on the Kerry Hill Society.

Castlemilk Moorit
‘Vulnerable’ on the RBST watchlist - less than 900 breeding ewes
Castlemilk Moorit Sheep Society
The Castlemilk Moorit is a small hardy primitive breed developed by the Buchanan-Jardine family in the early 1900’s in Scotland. It has Soay and Manx Loghtan in its genetic make-up and was saved from extinction by Joe Henson of the Cotswold Farm Park (where our ewe comes from) in the 1970s. Like most primitive breeds, they are naturally short tailed, both ewes and rams are horned and their tan coloured wool is short and tight suitable for spinning. They are slow maturing and their meat is more gamey in flavour than conventional lamb, in fact they are often thought of as more like deer than sheep in nature.

Castlemilk Moorit at South Yeo Farm


Jacob
Classed as ‘Other Native Breed’ by the RBST as their numbers are not currently of concern
Jacob Sheep Society  
These strikingly marked sheep are popular with smallholders. They are a good sized sheep that are hardy and prolific and their multicoloured fleeces are much sought after by spinners. Both ewes and rams have either 2 or 4 horns and are predominantly white with black irregular spots across their body. The head is usually black with a white blaze, a black nose and white legs free of wool. The black wool fades to a rich brown with exposure to the sun during the seasons, much like our Balwens. Interestingly, the skin under the black spots is black, and white under the white markings. They are increasingly popular with commercial farmers for crossbreeding and are often kept as ‘pets’ by farmers children as they are easy to tell apart from the rest of their flocks! We have a ewe, ‘Jasmine’, from Jo Kingdom’s flock near Sampford Courtenay, her main showing interest is her award winning Kerry Hill sheep, and their working collie Ted is father to our Meg.

Jacob Sheep at South Yeo Farm

Kerry Hills at South Yeo

Norfolk Horn    
Norfolk Horn Breeders Group
‘At Risk’ on the RBST watchlist - less than 1500 breeding ewes
As their name suggests, this breed comes from Norfolk. Their numbers have improved dramatically since the mid 20th century when they fell to only 6; there are now over 2000 registered ewes. They are thought to be one of the oldest sheep breeds in the country and are excellent foragers, well suited to conservation grazing. Both the rams and ewes have horns, they have a black head and legs and the fleece is white, although lambs are born dark and lighten as their wool develops. They are a medium weight sheep and were used to develop the commercial Suffolk breed by crossing with the Southdown.  We have a ewe from Joe & Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park, the home of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

Norfolk Horn Sheep at South Yeo Farm

Poll Dorset
Classed as ‘Other Native Breed’ by the RBST as their numbers are not currently of concern
Poll Dorset Sheep Breeders Association   
Unusually amongst our recent additions, the Poll Dorset has no horns! They are a prolific, docile and easy to manage sheep that breeds out of season allowing commercial farmers to catch the early lamb market. They are excellent mothers and frequently rear twins. They have a dense firm generous wool covering and wool on the head from brow to poll and a characteristic pink nose. Our Dorset ewe ‘Polly’ comes from the Higher Rowden flock at Sampford Courtenay.

Poll Dorset Sheep at South Yeo Farm

Portland
Portland Sheep Breeders Group
‘At Risk’ on the RBST watchlist - less than 1500 breeding ewes
Portlands are a small primitive heathland breed from Dorset with ancestral links to Mediterranean sheep. They are tan faced and legged, both the ewes and rams have horns, and their tails are kept long. They are unusual as they are capable of breeding at any time of year and usually have only one lamb. Their creamy wool is short and fine and much sought after by hand spinners; the lambs are born a foxy red colour and change to cream within the first few months of life. They are a hardy breed and are best kept on for a year or two for their delicately flavoured mutton. We have a small group purchased from a breeder on the Lizard in Cornwall, ‘Poppy’ and ‘Parsley’ are the ring leaders.
photo attached

Portland Sheep at South Yeo

Whiteface Dartmoor
‘At Risk’ on the RBST watchlist - less than 1500 breeding ewes
Whiteface Dartmoor Sheep Breeders Association
There are many sheep breeds originating from Devon, including the Exmoor Horn, Devon & Cornwall Longwool, Devon Closewool, Greyface Dartmoors (or simply ‘Dartmoors’) and finally the Whiteface Dartmoor which is well adapted to its moorland home being able to withstand the harshest of weathers. They are excellent mothers, lamb easily and have superb curly fleeces which ultimately make luscious skins. They are a friendly breed which would be an excellent choice for first time keepers, although care is required during the summer fly season to prevent fly strike. Our ewe comes from Kate Hobbs at Ilsington on the southern edge of Dartmoor (also the DASH training co-ordinator), and is descended from Colin Pearse’s stock, long-time Whiteface keepers recently featured on the BBC’s Countryfileand the Edwardian Farm.

Whiteface Dartmoor Sheep at South Yeo Farm

Wiltshire Horn
Classed as ‘Other Native Breed’ by the RBST as their numbers are not currently of concern.
The Wiltshire Horn Sheep Society
The Wiltshire horn is popular with those keeping only a few sheep as it naturally sheds its wool and therefore does not require the complication of organising a shearer each year. It will also pass on this trait if crossed with other breeds and with the current low wool price is attractive to commercial farmers as well. They are a big, prolific and meaty breed, finishing quickly with low levels of fat. Both the ewes and rams are horned. ‘Willow’ will be joining the flock shortly.

Learn how to keep sheep
If you would like to learn more about our sheep breeds or how to keep sheep, why not come along to an informative and fun one day training course? For a number of years now we have run beginnersIntroduction to Sheep Keeping courses at the farm to enable those just starting out to have hands-on experience of handling sheep and to learn of their breeding and daily care requirements. For further details of dates, agenda, prices etc, please see our training pages. Come and meet our various flocks to see just some of the variety of sheep available in the UK.