Scottish & Borders Lleyn Sheep Breeders Club

As our club name suggests we represent Lleyn Sheep breeders in Scotland & the North of England

Lleyns Rise to Challenge

Substantial savings on feed costs, a closed flock producing its own replacements and a top quality prime lamb crop earning premium prices - the Lleyn is delivering this and more besides for Cumbria farmer Frank Dinsdale.

Frank Dinsdale Low Hall Lleyn sheepAnd it hasn't taken long for his new Lleyn flock to prove its worth. "Easy to shepherd, very docile, plenty of milk, good mothers and they eat a fraction of what we used to feed our Mule ewes. In fact I would say the Lleyn ewe is a tougher sheep than the Mule; she's hardy and holds her body condition right up to lambing without having to be propped up with feed," says Frank Dinsdale who farms with his wife Pauline. Milk cows had always provided the farm's primary income, supplemented over the years by buying Swaledale ewes and breeding Mules and then selling Mule ewes with Suffolk sired lambs at foot. But the farm was caught up in the foot and mouth crisis. Even though no disease was found on the holding the entire sheep and dairy stock were culled.

With no desire to retire, but nevertheless keen to escape from the seven-day-week milking routine, it was decided to re-stock with suckler cows and a flock of breeding ewes - but it had to be a flock that could remain closed and produce its own replacements. The opportunity to bring in new sheep onto "rested" land would enable a flock to be established and managed to high health status criteria.

Mr Dinsdale was familiar with the Lleyn having admired a neighbour's sheep for some years. But once the decision was made to set-up his own flock he was adamant to buy from one source.

"The last thing I wanted to do was to buy in bunches of sheep from all over the place. When you buy-in sheep every year you are always bringing in something you don't want. Flock health is now an important issue and I wanted all the ewes to come from one farm."

Late in 2001 he located enough Lleyn females - about 222 - from the long-established flock run by John Roberts, farm manager with W M Griffiths Farms in north Shropshire. The foundation for the new maedi-visna accredited flock at Low Hall Farm comprised 170 shearlings with the rest made up of three-shear ewes.

Lleyn lambsAs you would expect with any new flock we have variation in type and size but we know the sort of sheep we are aiming for. To continue to win new converts from the Mule the Lleyn has to have some size without getting too big; but I am more concerned about length.

"In my opinion these sheep don't want to be stretched out too much or the hindquarter will be lost. Prime lamb buyers like shape at the back-end and the Lleyn must retain it," says Mr Dinsdale.

"I have to admit that the wether lambs always looked top quality sorts whenever we took a batch to the auction. They were widely admired for their consistent quality week on week and that's a great confidence booster when you've got lambs the buyers really want."

Gimmer lamb sare sold at the breed society's Carlisle sale and the remainder had chance of the tup resulting.

Lleyn ewe with twin lambsOne of the biggest revelations to the Dinsdales has been the way their new Lleyn ewes hold their body condition in late pregnancy. "Compared with the Mule ewes that we used to run - which we'd be generously feeding pre-lambing and well into April or even May - the Lleyn is a very different sheep in terms of her feed requirements.

"I'm on a learning curve with this breed but they certainly aren't a sheep that demands hard feeding. They seem to have a natural ability to hold their flesh and don't allow the lambs to pull them down in late pregnancy."

When you are not feeding ewes it makes shepherding them a lot easier. You can drive around the flock without the whole lot milling around the bike looking for food."

"Lleyn ewes have ideally-sized teats and even if they have a low bag the teats are always well placed making it easy for lambs to suck. Lambs are very sharp and are up and sucking within minutes of being born. Lleyn lambs don't need any help to get that first feed."

The few years have seen major changes at Low Hall Farm but Frank Dinsdale remains convinced that he's backed a winner with Lleyn.

"To be able to run a closed flock and breed your own replacements as well as producing a crop of top quality prime lambs - all from a system using a fraction of the feed we used to - seems like a good basis on which to re-build a business," says Frank Dinsdale.


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