December 2015

Alpaca Origins

28 December, 2015 - 11:00 | Lara Pollard-Jones

Alpacas are a South American camelid and are often confused with Llamas; though both come from the same area they are different species of the Camelidae family.  Alpacas have been kept for thousands of years, for both their high quality fibre and their low fat meat.  It is fair to say that Alpaca meat is still not widely available in the United Kingdom, but is known for being low in fat and cholesterol as well as high in protein; it has been marketed as the ‘healthy’ alternative to beef.

Image courtesy of BBC News 

The unusual trait of Shropshire Sheep

21 December, 2015 - 11:00 | Lara Pollard-Jones

In the 1970s the Shropshire Sheep was under close observation by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust through fears that it may become extinct.  However, after many years of hard work by dedicated breeders the breed has prevailed and is seeing an increase in popularity.

It is common for sheep to be used as conservation grazers, but they have a tendency to eat the new growth on trees as well as munching on older foliage.  To this end, they are not always suitable for dwarf or new orchards; even in established orchards they have been known to strip the bark off the trees.  The Shropshire sheep, however, does not have this problem.

Optimising added value from sheep, goats and alpacas

Sue Blacker's picture
16 December, 2015 - 16:34 | Sue Blacker

Not just a pretty face, Harry added loads of value to my life! 

He was a bottle-fed, home-reared lamb who travelled to work when on four-hourly feeds and eventually reluctantly accepted that he was really a sheep and lived with the others for eight years until his life became of insufficient quality and the knacker-man came for him. 

Shepherding in the alps

14 December, 2015 - 11:00 | Lara Pollard-Jones




Anyone who has ever tried to herd sheep will know that is can – at times – be rather tricky.  However, our herding distances and efforts pale in comparison to those undertaken by the shepherds and their flock in this picture. 

This image shows a small part of their eight hour trek to new grazing in the Alps.  Those of you with a keen eye may be able to spot the odd Valais Blacknose amongst the woolly entourage.

What do cows eat?

Sue Blacker's picture
1 December, 2015 - 16:05 | Sue Blacker

This may seem like a silly question.  However, there is some method to my madness (not much, I will admit!) ...

I have a friend and fleece supplier called David Barrah, who is also a specialist meat inspector.  This means he goes to abbatoirs to ensure that only healthy animals get into the food chain.  As a result he sees some quite amazing things sometimes and is an expert on, for example, the appearance of Bovine TB lesions, and other gruesome illnesses, deformities or abnormalities.  Indeed he does more post mortem examinations than any vet!  Some of these things, he collects and uses to illustrate talks and presentations. 

Wool scouring in the Auvergne

Sue Blacker's picture
1 December, 2015 - 15:45 | Sue Blacker

Here is the wonderful view of some of the extinct volcanos in the Auvergne, seen from an excellent French motorway service area, called the Aire des Volcans, usefully!  It's pretty close to Clermont Ferrand (famous for Michelin tyres, and maps and guides of course) and rugby. 

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