Dorset Down Sheep
It is now time to expand our present stock of animals and supply ourselves with another variety of meat in to the bargain. We are very excited to have found a French breeder of Dorset Down sheep, and have collected 3 of a total of 6 on 26 th February 2006. We have arranged to collect 5 ewes and 1 ram 3 ewes in the first instance and 2 ewes and a ram in August.
Below you can see the new arrivals the day after we collected them in the first of our new enclosures.
Our intention is to breed from these and then from spring 2007 we will have our own supply of lamb and mutton for our freezer and of course sell the excess to the public. Further continuing to help us stay self-sufficient
So why Dorset Down?
I personally like them just for their looks and would happily own them just for the pleasure of keeping such wonderful looking creatures. However this alone is not enough for a smallholder who wants to be self-sufficient, so the more logical perspective is presented below.
The Dorset Down is a very solid, medium-sized sheep of English origin, which produces, excellent quality meat and is said to be one of the finest grades of wool.
It gained its origins in the work of Mr Homer Saunders of Watercombe, near Dorchester, who in 1820 began selectively to improve Down Sheep at Bovington, Dorset – thus producing the ‘Watercombe’ breed.
At the same time Mr Humfrey of Chaddleworth, near Newbury, selected some of the best Berkshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire ewes and crossed them with pure Southdown rams from the flock of Mr Jonas Webb.
After many years of careful breeding Humfrey produced a class of sheep similar to that of Homer Saunders and known as the ‘West Country Down’.
The sheep bred by Saunders and Humfrey were introduced into the Down flocks of Dorset to produce the ‘Dorset Down’ breed as we know it today.
The breed association was formed in 1906 and in 2004 represented about 50 flocks comprising of about 2,500 pedigree registered sheep in the United Kingdom.
Our Dorset Downs are descendants of the first to be introduced from England into France by Pierre Chenu and Albert Charron in 1967. Along with others, these two French breeders saw the Dorset Down as more developed than the Southdown, which had become common in France. They therefore persuaded the French Ministry of Agriculture to recognise the Dorset Down officially in 1974.
We have one area of land that is banked down to a wood and is too steep to be cut for hay, shown in all the photos above, so we have constructed 3 separate grazing areas within this space. This will facilitate movement from one area to another every two and an half weeks to avoid over grazing and transmission of worms, avoiding the necessity to over medicate them for worms.
We are now some five years on and have very much changed our minds
about sheep both how to care for them and what we want from them. We are now
developing an integrated grazing system which is not about separating the sheep
from the rest of our livestock; instead we are building a total of 21 small paddocks
taking up most of our open ground. These paddocks will then be grazed by our
cows followed by our sheep and then with a one day break followed by some of
our chickens, for more details see our “grazing” page.