Big day out for sheep farmers

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Sheep farmers flocked in their thousands to the sector’s bi-annual specialist business event thanks to the continuing heavy rainfall.

With land work out of the question there was no excuse to avoid a day out at the showground in Malvern where most of the breed societies were exhibiting.

Retired farmer Richard Davis who lives in Great Missenden, was there in his capacity as secretary of the Hampshire Down sheep society. He said: “The rain was to our advantage, because if it had been fine everyone would have stayed at home to get on with the haymaking and silage.”

The event on Wednesday (4th July), which was opened this year by the government’s chief scientific advisor Sir John Beddington, is the largest of its kind for the UK sheep industry and featured more than 300 exhibitors and international representatives. As well as demonstrations, there were lectures about scientific improvements and approaches; trade and pharmaceutical stands.

Working sheepdogs were on sale and there were competitions in stock judging and sheep shearing as well as butchery awards for the best lamb burgers. Farmers were given advice on how to add value to their wool clip and had the chance to inspect some of the finest fleeces; and a wool clinic by the British Wool Marketing Board advised how to improve the presentation and quality of fleeces.

Mr Davis, who used to farm sheep commercially, said although the show day can be tiring he enjoyed it very much as it gave him an opportunity to promote Hampshire Downs to a wider public. He said he was attracted to the breed because of the growth rate. “They grow very quickly; cross bred lambs can be finished at 10 weeks,” he explained. “ They convert very well with grass and mother’s milk.”

Other benefits of the native breed include easy lambing and easy care. The lambs are robust and quick to suckle, with tight skins making them hardy from a very early age. They finish quickly on grass with no concentrates. The carcass is well fleshed with one of the highest eye muscle scores of any breed. And the rams are an excellent investment as they are generally long lived, vigorous and are able to cover a good number of ewes each season.