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Badger Faces celebrate 40 years

As the Badger Face sheep society celebrate their 40th year, chairman Bethan Watkins reflects on the breed and how it has developed. Laura Bowyer reports.

Why was the society formed?

The society was formed in 1976 by a small group of farmers in mid-Wales who all kept Badger Face sheep. At the time they were few in number and the main objective for the society was to create a pure-breed, improving their conformation and markings while also promoting the breed.

How has the society and breed progressed in 40 years?

The breed has steadily improved, now holding the second highest number of entries at the Royal Welsh Show, with some classes having more than 40 sheep.

Within a year of forming, the society had 32 members and today we are upwards of 300. Two or three years after the society was formed we had our first sale at the NSA ram sale at Builth Wells, where it is still held today.

What are the breed characteristics?

The breed has two colour variants.

  • The Torddu, meaning black belly, has a white fleece with black facial markings and a black throat band extending down to a black belly, britches and under-tail.
  • The Torwen, or white belly, has a black or dark brown fleece with white facial markings and a white bib or throat band extending down to a white belly, britches and under-tail.

Conformation of both variations is the same as a Welsh Mountain.

How many Badger Faces are in the UK and are they more heavily populated in any region of the country?

I would think there are more than 15,000 registered sheep. Most of our membership is in Wales, although we also have about 100 members in England and Scotland.

What benefits can they bring to a commercial flock?

Badger Face ewes are milky and quite capable of rearing two lambs, making them ideal for cross-breeding with terminal sires to get a heavier lamb carcase. They lamb easily, which make the rams ideal for use on commercial ewe lambs.

Why do you think Badger Faces have gained popularity, moving away from rare breed status?

The Badger Face breed has an attractive, striking appearance, are easy to manage and can become very tame, making them ideal for first-time sheep keepers and children.

With more Badger Face classes at shows and celebrities, such as Kate Humble, now keeping the breed, they are increasingly popular and gaining a higher profile.

The definition of a rare breed is a breeding population of less than 3,000 ewes. The Torddu is by far the more popular version of the breed, however the Torwens remain below 3,000 breeding ewes and should in effect still be classed as a rare or minority breed. However, the Rare Breed Survival Trust count the two varieties as one breed.

In Wales, pedigree native breeds have gained popularity, due to environmental schemes such as Glastir. Pedigree native breeds can be used to gain points to qualify for these schemes and thus pay

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