Look­ing for in­spi­ra­tion?

Country Smallholding - - In Focus -

What­ever your small­hold­ing in­ter­ests are, the Royal Welsh Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety’s Spring Fes­ti­val at Builth Wells is an ex­cel­lent show­case for the dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties and op­tions avail­able in this grow­ing sec­tor. As well as the wider at­trac­tions, there’s a ded­i­cated Small­hold­ers Cen­tre, this magazine’s own Speak­ers Cor­ner, more than 1,400 live­stock ex­hibits and a whole range of breed so­ci­ety stands be­ing run by vol­un­teers keen to ex­plain the virtues of their breed.

I’ve got to ad­mit a vested in­ter­est at this point as I’m the breed sec­re­tary of the Wilt­shire Horn Sheep So­ci­ety and will be on our stand at the show again this year. So I’m in a po­si­tion to know that this re­ally is a show where you can find new things with which to take your small­hold­ing on­wards and up­wards.

Last year was our first ap­pear­ance at Builth Wells as a so­ci­ety and it was great that our dis­tinc­tive, self-shed­ding sheep at­tracted so much at­ten­tion.

One small­hold­ing cou­ple in par­tic­u­lar were fas­ci­nated by the Wilt­shire Horn Sheep and re­turned to the stand sev­eral times, for in­creas­ingly de­tailed con­ver­sa­tions about the sheep. They were search­ing for a new breed that might be more suited to their lo­ca­tion, out in the west of Carmarthenshire, than their ex­ist­ing flock and be­came con­vinced that the Wilt­shire Horn was what they were look­ing for.

Cut­ting a long story short, they promptly joined our so­ci­ety, bought some pedi­gree ewes in Wales and a pedi­gree ram in Lin­colnshire and have just writ­ten to me at the con­clu­sion of their first Wilt­shire Horn lamb­ing sea­son.

“The Wilt­shires have per­formed mag­nif­i­cently, and our old hand neigh­bours are so im­pressed that they have been talk­ing about pos­si­ble crosses al­ready. They lamb beau­ti­fully, very quiet and la­dy­like, none of the un­seemly groan­ing and shout­ing we get from our other sheep who ex­pect us to share their pain! More to the point they do it them­selves, with no in­ter­ven­tion re­quired at all. The lambs are up VERY quickly and suckle fast.

“I can­not be­lieve the growth rate (and the speed with which the horns grow!). It’s com­ing up on two months now for the early ones and nudg­ing 20kg. Ewes still have lots of milk but lambs are eat­ing creep at prodi­gious rates. One in­ter­est­ing thing we dis­cov­ered, not only is it easy to see if a lamb has found the teat, but at feed­ing time you can scan all the ewes at a glance and check ud­ders for any sign of mas­ti­tis. The ewes main­tained body con­di­tion re­ally well, even on our rel­a­tively poor graz­ing and with no dag­ging, crutch­ing or shear­ing to come, we are look­ing for­ward to a much re­duced work­load.

“Thanks for con­vinc­ing us to make the tran­si­tion!”

I’m re­ally pleased to hear of their suc­cess with the Wilt­shire Horn Sheep. It’s a good il­lus­tra­tion of a visit to the Spring Fes­ti­val mak­ing a real dif­fer­ence to some­one’s small­hold­ing. I’m con­fi­dent that this isn’t a one-off and other breed so­ci­eties could quote sim­i­lar sto­ries. Bot­tom line is that a visit to the RWAS Spring Fes­ti­val is re­ally worthwhile and the place to find new in­spi­ra­tion for your small­hold­ing. Hope to see you there in May.

Wilt­shire Horn sheep

Ned at work

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