Marie Prebble runs a 93ha (230-acre) Ministry of Defence-tenanted farm with her parents, David and Diane, near Dover. Largely permanent pasture in Higher Level Stewardship, the farm is home to 400 breeding Romneys which Marie puts to high index Lleyn rams.
The ewes must have read my last article and decided I sounded smug. Week two of lambing provided a bit more of a challenge, with assisted births and a couple of ewes who began motherhood haltered to the side of the pen so their second lamb, definitely theirs although they claimed otherwise, had chance to feed.
They eventually accepted both lambs but it is a test of patience, especially when you applaud, to anyone who will listen, the benefits of Romneys as sheep with such excellent maternal instinct they would never let you down. Losses totalled 13 lambs and one ewe and I assisted 31 ewes in all.
Lambing progressed quickly, with all but 30 done in the first two weeks. The twins and young lambs are now grazing rye-grass, chicory, plantain and clover, with last year’s wheat and meadow-grass making a healthy appearance. The Romneys are not convinced they would not rather be scratching around for invisible grass on bare ground as is their custom, but once the lambs are older and grazing I am sure they will do well.
The hay fields are all now shut off and it has rained twice in the last two weeks. The dry cold spell may have delayed flystrike. I have started shearing hoggets and only found a couple of sheep with maggots. While on the subject, I recently attended a hogget tasting event at a fancy farm shop in Kent, supplied by several Pasture for Life producers.
We each stood up and presented our farms and the meat we would be sampling and, interestingly, there was a discernible range of flavour and texture from three Kentish Romney cross-bred animals. It was a fantastic opportunity to have farmer, butcher, chef and consumer under one roof and I managed to divert questions about animal welfare off the subject of flystrike over dinner.
My first shearing competitions are coming up and I am looking forward to trying out the novice blade shearing and woolhandling as well as more familiar machine shearing. n May I offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Samuel Wharry, chairman of the National Sheep Association and friend to sheep farmers and young shepherds across the UK. He was a great ambassador for the industry, perceptive and progressive, a pleasure to be around, and will be sorely missed.