Livestock Farming

Fly strike

18 April, 2016 - 13:10 | Lara Pollard-Jones

The thought of flystrike can send a chill through any shepherd; though no illness or disease in sheep is pleasant, this is one of the worst.  After a mild, very wet winter, the numbers of fly larvae around will be greater than usual, so it will be doubly important to watch out for strike and deal with it without risking  compromise to the health of the sheep or the potential to use the wool.

The economic cost of flies is estimated to reduce milk yields by 0.5 litres per cow per day and growth rates by 0.3kg per head per day in cattle, which can easily be extrapolated to sheep - it's not just the damage to an animal which has been struck, but the irritation which distracts the whole flock from getting on with eating and growing.


Portland Sheep and the Combined Flock Book

11 April, 2016 - 13:00 | Lara Pollard-Jones

A small flock of Portland sheep.  Image courtesy of BWMB.

When breeding any animal it is important to aim for correct and healthy offspring, but when breeding pedigree stock the breed standard is the first thing to be take into consideration. With some breeds, coloured sheep are not accepted into the breed registry and people are discouraged from breeding them; the same can be said for certain markings, as the resulting sheep is not true to type.  In breeds where there are large numbers, this is not a problem as sheep with undesirable characteristics can more easily be excluded from t

Sheep as Therapy

4 April, 2016 - 14:42 | Lara Pollard-Jones

An example of a well turned out Ryeland sheep.
Image courtesy of Hawthorns Ryelands.

Those local to us may have seen an article in the Western Morning News at the end of last month:  ‘Cornish care home helps to save rare breed sheep.’  While the Ryeland sheep in question aren’t any longer a rare breed (they were on the RBST survival list a few years ago, but have since grown in number so that they are no longer at risk) they certainly are working wonders with people with learning disabilities at HIghdowns Farm.


Sheep in Winter

30 March, 2016 - 13:00 | Lara Pollard-Jones

Images courtesy of Wool Carpets Naturally

Reflecting on a “bad” winter … what do we mean?  The UK winter which is nearing its end has been miserably wet though not very cold.  This is an unpleasant combination for farmers and for sheep.

When the weather is wet, it’s more difficult to move around the fields, there’s mud in gateways and “poaching” of muddy damaged grass extends many yards into the fields themselves from each gate.  And then if it has been windy, the gutters that feed the rainwater tanks may be damaged, causing leaks and more mud at a time when getting a ladder out to do repairs is unusually difficult.

What's in the box?

14 March, 2016 - 14:24 | Lara Pollard-Jones


For those of us that tupped in October lambing is not only on the horizon, but also approaching at a rate of knots.  Now is the time to make sure that your lambing shed (if you are lucky enough to have one) is set up for your expectant mothers and their new arrivals.  Along with cleaning everything, erecting pens, and worrying about having enough straw/hay/feed it is also important to think about what you have in your lambing box.  This may be the last thought on your mind, especially with the current weather, but having the right equipment on hand can be the difference between life and death for a ewe and lamb.

The Killing Fields

7 March, 2016 - 12:41 | Lara Pollard-Jones

A pedigree flock of Devon & Cornwall Longwools.  Picture courtesy of BWMB.

This has been quite a hard winter for sheep farmers: not only has it been very wet indeed, which is bad for sheep, but also the meat prices have been a bit lower …

As a result, there cannot be many shepherds this year who have not experienced losses of ewes, rams, yearling lambs and newly born lambs.  We have heard sad stories of lambs being born only to drown in the mud and puddles in the field before they can get up or die of pneumonia from getting too chilled.   This is very hard to deal with.

It’s always really sad to lose an animal, whether an old friend or a new one scarcely known yet.



Looking at textiles from the sheep and wool perspective

Sue Blacker's picture
18 February, 2016 - 10:14 | Sue Blacker

Full of the joys of a New Year, I was pleased to see that the thinking people were busy.  In January, both the Oxford Farming Conference (big guns, big business, big numbers, big results) is held, as is a newer alternative version called the Real Oxford Farming Conference (sustainability, innovation, new models, less is more).

Both conferences have a place in the thinking processes for the future of agriculture, whether for food or other crops and both get publicity beyond the farming press, with usually a government minister attending and speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference and both attended by influential organisations and individuals.  Even The Archers go, though of course Brian and David go to the Oxford rather than the Real Oxford ...

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. 

The Bluefaced Leicester

12 October, 2015 - 15:32 | Lara Pollard-Jones

The Bluefaced Leicester is one of the most well known sheep breeds in the UK today, and arguably one of the most important.  Easily recognisable with its aquiline nose, pronounced ears and deep blue skin it is popular for crossing and is used as a terminal sire for nearly 50% of the UKs commercial breeding flock.  Its popularity as a terminal sire, however, has led to a divide within the breed with two distinctly different looking types.  This has led many to call for the Bluefaced Leicester to be divided into two distinct breeds, the traditional and the crossing-type.

What's in a name? Weights of fleeces

12 October, 2015 - 15:21 | Lara Pollard-Jones

Fleece has always played an important part in farming, and the wool trade is currently relatively strong after a lengthy depression.  Just as there are specific words for counting sheep (Yan, tan, tethera, etc) there are also words that are used for counting weights of fleece.  These are no longer used today but were vitally important when farmers were selling their fleeces.  7lbs of fleece is a clove, two cloves are a stone.  Two stones are a tod, six and a half tods are a wey.  Two weys are a sack and 12 sacks are a last.


Stone (two cloves)

Tod (two stones)

Wey (six and a half tods)

Sack (two weys)

Last (twelve sacks)








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