New Shepherds

We knew we had to have sheep, it's natural in these parts!

Which breed of sheep wasn't as straightforward. Our location calls for strong hardy animals; we wanted good, slow maturing, meat and a quality fleece, suitable for spinning. Good mothering instinct was another essential characteristic, useful for novice shepherds.

Desktop research and first hand experience led us away from the breeds usually found on the Moors. Instead we decided on a specific rare breed of sheep as, on the one hand, it helps to preserve native animals and on the other, with pedigree animals, we knew exactly the bloodlines we were buying into.

The Whitefaced Woodland is one of the largest British hill breeds. Both ewes and rams have horns. Strong-boned and robust, mature ewes weigh 60kg (135lb) but can reach 72.5kg (160 lb) in good grazing.

Six. Lots of people want to know how many sheep we started with. Well, you have start somewhere! In these parts flock sizes are often 400 plus and 1,000 wouldn't be unusual, but there are fewer than 900 Woodies on the rare breed register. Part of the fun is in building the flock over time.

Edited version, originally posted in September 2012.

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© 2014 by Peter Mawson.