Having worked with sheep for a number of years and spending 12 weeks on a large sheep farm in Romney Marsh last summer, I have always been keen to start my own flock and when I heard an elderly lady nearby was selling up it seemed the perfect opportunity. So on Sunday morning, when most were probably still in bed, I was chasing a flock of Southdown ewes up hill and down dale in thunder and torrential rain, trying to coax them into our trailer.
Four days on and despite one already getting the fly they seem friendly, healthy and happy to pose for the odd selfie.
I remember the day I fell for the Southdown breed. It had been a long, cold, miserable day on the marsh and lambing was in full swing.
Being the most frustrating animals, trying to bring ewes and newborn lambs in from the field to shelter was a challenge.
But it was a Southdown ewe that was my ray of sunshine on that freezing afternoon. She had lambed on the farthest side of the field and I thought, yet again, I would be ever so slowly luring her into the shed like I had with many before her that day. With lamb in hand I started the long slog to the shed hoping she would follow but this spunky Southdown walked along side me, gently head butting my leg and keeping up with my fastening stride all the way. Now I’m not saying that every Southdown would make such an experience so straightforward but it was just what I needed on that occasion.
After achieving a number of Texel shaped bruises and Romney grazes it seemed to me this breed was less skitty, easier to handle and coped well with the particularly harsh weather conditions we had last spring.
As a breed they are docile, good mothers and produce good, fast growing lambs. They are now one of the most popular breeds of sheep for small-scale breeders but are also widely seen in larger, commercial flocks.
Many people think the only reason I chose the Southdown is because they look like teddy bears, which is not the case. Well, maybe a tiny bit. I do find them a very pleasant breed and as our monthly columnist and my ex-agriculture lecturer, Alan West always says, if you’re going to look at it everyday you deserve to get something you find attractive.
Anyway, the girls are settling in well and I’m sure they are going to be thoroughly spoilt like the rest of my animals. They will be going to the ram during the beginning of November and I’m hoping to try my hand at showing next season. How exciting!