Sheep - Shropshire
Category 5, Minority on the RBST Watchlist.
Shropshire Sheep Breeders Association and Flock Book Society
In 2008 we decided to keep a second native breed of sheep and looked around to find another that would fit in to our management system and ethos. We learned that Shropshires had been used successfully on the continent to graze in conifer plantations as they don’t seem to be attracted to the trees, thus providing a natural weed control without use of chemicals. As we have grown and sold Christmas trees now for the last few years, this seemed like an excellent idea and they are so different from the Balwen that it would make telling the 2 apart easy!
Shropshires are a downland meat breed, also coming from the Welsh borders and West Midlands and were recently featured in the BBC program ‘Victorian Farm’. The breed society was the first to be formed in Britain in 1882 and it overseas registrations of both ewes and rams. The sheep are medium sized, rams reaching 120Kg and ewes around 75Kg. Both rams and ewes are hornless, have a white fine fleece, a black face with wool covered forehead and legs. They are a stocky breed with a deep muscular body and the lambs appear to finish quickly and make excellent eating (phew!) Shropshire rams are also often used as ‘terminal’ sires on other breeds.
We started with a few older ewes and a quality ram lamb in the autumn of 2008 (he was a bit frustrated) and bought another few ewe lambs in late winter that were bred in the autumn of 2009. Shropshires are capable of lambing earlier than some other breeds and most flocks are lambed in January/February. As we lamb the Balwens in early April we decided to lamb the Shropshires in late January so that both have plenty of room in the lambing shed. The intention is to breed up to 25 ewes to run along-side the Balwens, so for the time being we regret we wont have any female registered breeding stock for sale.
When they first arrived, the Shropshires seemed daunting as they were so much bigger than the Balwens but they are markedly more docile and will readily follow a bucket around the farm making them a delight to manage.
Further details of breed standards can be found on the Shropshire Sheep Breeders Association and Flock Book Society website.