My Favourite Breed

Deb­bie Kings­ley talks to Charlotte and An­thony Barnes about their Castlemilk Moorits

Country Smallholding - - Welcome -

Castlemilk Moorit sheep

We’ve both just turned 50 and been mar­ried for 21 years,” says An­drew (Bar­ney) Barnes. “Charlotte’s a hair­dresser and I’m a pain­ter and dec­o­ra­tor. We live just out­side a small vil­lage called Ock­brook be­tween Derby and Not­ting­ham. Hav­ing moved out of the town 12 years ago, it be­came a bit of a life chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. First came our two dogs, Monty and Jem, then came the chick­ens, and then came two pigs. Then came the re­al­i­sa­tion that the fence should have come be­fore the pigs; all a learn­ing curve. We are not from a farm­ing back­ground but it is some­thing we both wish we had found a few years ear­lier.

“It all started over five years ago. Our daugh­ter So­phie was at agri­cul­tural col­lege and did a night of lamb­ing which prob­a­bly changed her di­rec­tion in life, and ours. We sat down one night and de­cided that it would be a good idea for So­phie to get some live­stock of her own. Get­ting to know a few farm­ers in the area with avail­able land was the first hur­dle. It took a few vis­its to var­i­ous farm­ers be­fore we were able to agree a graz­ing li­cence for four ar­eas of rough ground, which was a start. Next was to choose a breed of sheep. Hav­ing an in­ter­est in con­ser­va­tion, we chose to see what was on the Rare Breeds Sur­vival Trust list. Up came the Castlemilk Moorit, a small breed, easy lamb­ing, good feet, no dock­ing of tails re­quired, and easy to han­dle. De­ci­sion made, we searched the web and found six ewes for sale from a good blood­line and quite lo­cal (well, only three hours away). Next came the ram. Again, it was back to the web, and up came Cal­lum, a lovely ram with a blood­line that went well with the girls, so off we went and had a look and came back with our hand­some ram, the be­gin­ning of our Keyshill Flock.

A hardy prim­i­tive breed

“All went well and lamb­ing time came. Even though we only had six girls lamb­ing it was a case of sit back and watch, with not one need­ing as­sis­tance; talk about a hardy prim­i­tive breed and the Castlemilk Moorit is it. They lamb eas­ily and are ex­cel­lent moth­ers. This year lamb­ing was 180% with two ewes hav­ing a set of triplets and suc­cess­fully rear­ing the lambs them­selves. I must ad­mit they are quite cute lambs but

Be­ing a hardy prim­i­tive breed makes the Castlemilk Moorit par­tic­u­larly suit­able for small­hold­ers

Dur­ing the early part of the 20th cen­tury, Sir Jock Buchanan-Jar­dine be­gan a sheep breed­ing pro­gramme on his Castlemilk Es­tate in Dum­friesshire. Us­ing Manx Logh­tan, moorit Shet­land and wild Mou­flon, he de­vel­oped a breed to beau­tify his parkland and pro­vide fine, kemp free moorit coloured wool. On his death in 1970 the ma­jor­ity of the flock was culled and a few dis­persed, in­clud­ing six ewes and a ram bought by Joe Hen­son at the Cotswold Farm Park. All of today’s Castlemilk Moorits are de­scended from these few sheep. The Castlemilk Moorit is one of the larger prim­i­tive type breeds with ma­ture ewes weigh­ing in the re­gion of 40kgs and rams 55kgs. The head is clean and level be­tween the ears. The ewes ex­hibit two uni­form and wide spread­ing horns which are much heav­ier and evenly spi­ralled in the rams, avoid­ing the cheeks. The neck should be well set on the shoul­ders fol­low­ing on to a straight back and well sprung ribs; the tail is nat­u­rally short and nar­row. Both sexes should be up­stand­ing on clean fine-boned legs, with nat­u­rally small feet. Its whole ap­pear­ance is grace­ful and well bal­anced; they are ex­tremely ag­ile and fleet footed.

Charlotte Barnes and a prizewin­ning Castlemilk Moorit

Shy but in­quis­i­tive...

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