Looking for inspiration?
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