An ideal small­holder breed

Country Smallholding - - In Focus -

The Wilt­shire Horn Sheep So­ci­ety

The Wilt­shire Horn is a very old na­tive breed and up un­til the end of the 18th cen­tury was the pre­dom­i­nant breed to be found on the Wilt­shire Downs. At this time the sheep were able to roam freely, do­ing well on the poor ter­rain which of­fered lit­tle shade or pro­tec­tion. It is this back­ground that has given the breed it’s har­di­ness and re­silience.

The breed fell out of favour dur­ing the 19th cen­tury when the econ­omy be­came re­liant on wool. The breed was saved from ex­tinc­tion by a small group of en­thu­si­as­tic breed­ers who formed the Wilt­shire Horn Sheep So­ci­ety in 1923. In the 1970s the breed came un­der the pro­tec­tion of the RBST be­cause numbers were so low. In re­cent years the num­ber of reg­is­tered sheep has sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased and so the breed has de­vel­oped into the large com­mer­cial flock it is today.

The growth in pop­u­lar­ity of the breed is pri­mar­ily due to its abil­ity to shed its fleece. The Wilt­shire Horn has a short fleece that nat­u­rally sheds in the spring leav­ing a short hair coat. The fleece will then grow again in the au­tumn to of­fer pro­tec­tion dur­ing the win­ter months. In an in­dus­try where wool pro­duc­tion has be­come un­eco­nomic, the ad­van­tages of self shed­ding sheep are clear to see. The labour costs as­so­ci­ated with wool are dras­ti­cally re­duced with no need to gather sheep for shear­ing, dag­ging or dip­ping.

Easy care char­ac­ter­is­tics

For some time, the breed has been pop­u­lar with small­hold­ers be­cause of it’s easy care char­ac­ter­is­tics, but more sig­nif­i­cantly the breed has now gained pop­u­lar­ity in the com­mer­cial sec­tor. The num­ber of larger flocks in the so­ci­ety has in­creased in re­cent years and there is a grow­ing de­mand from farm­ers who, recog­nis­ing the ad­van­tages of a self shed­ding breed, are turn­ing to the Wilt­shire Horn for both pure and cross breed­ing.

The large framed ewes are good, milky moth­ers and are equally suited to in­door and out­door lamb­ing sys­tems. Both pure­bred and cross­bred lambs have re­mark­able vi­tal­ity at birth and will fin­ish off grass grow­ing to heavy weights with­out putting on ex­cess fat.

The Wilt­shire Horn breed is the tra­di­tional choice for the 21st cen­tury. It has the strengths of a na­tive low­land breed, com­bined with low main­te­nance and low in­put costs, and has the abil­ity to meet the most strin­gent re­quire­ments of the mod­ern sheep in­dus­try.

MORE: http://www.wilt­shire­horn.org.uk email info@ wilt­shire­howrn.co.uk or call 0844 800 1029. You can also visit the so­ci­ety’s stand at Na­tional Sheep As­so­ci­a­tion events, speak to ex­hibitors at shows or con­tact mem­bers in your area.

The growth in pop­u­lar­ity of the breed is pri­mar­ily due to its abil­ity to shed its fleece

Wilt­shire Horns – an ‘easycare’ breed

Nina Dens­ley with her Wilt­shire Horns in New Zealand

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