Mike Miller

Only those who love them and have a great sense of humour should keep sheep

Tell us a bit about your background and how long you have been farming for?

I have farmed all my life. In the 1960’s as a farmer’s son you were expected, when you finished school or college, to work at home on the farm.

Tell us more about your farm and the activities you do?

Our farm covers 325 hectares within three blocks of land. At present, we carry about 150 cattle and 500 breeding ewes, plus we grow about 185-190 hectares of cereals, lupins, whole crop, kale and turnips. Some of this is used to feed the cattle and the surplus is sold. We also aim to not use any fertiliser on the grass as we are in a nitrogen sensitive area.

Our land is mixed, we have clay, a little gravel, fine chalk and chalk downland. All the sheep graze grass during the summer and where possible alternate with cattle to minimise the worm contamination.

This is a family farm, we are all equal partners. My eldest son is a qualified chartered surveyor, after six years in London he decided to return home for a better quality of life. My younger son came home to work after going to Cirencester R.A.C and the fourth member is my wife. Except from shearing, harvesting the whole crop and fencing we do everything else ourselves. Shearing is spread over three sessions; in March we shear the Charollais rams, May is the ewe lambs and Lleyn ram lambs and in June we shear the rest.

What sheep breed types do you have?

Our ewes are Charollais and Lleyn. We first bought the Charollais in 1986 with one old ewe, 4 shearling (young) ewes and 2 ewe lambs – we now run about 100 Charollais breeding ewes. They lamb indoors in January then after two weeks they are in and out of the buildings until middle of February when they permanently outside on kale and turnips. Our Charollais flock are all purebred, registered with the Charollais Sheep Society and MV accredited (accredited as free from Maedi Visna).

In 1999 I purchased my first flock Lleyn with 23 ewe lambs from the Society Sale at Ross-On-Wye being the only MV accredited free maternal breed I could buy in numbers at the time, and I’ve continued to carry Lleyn flock on the farm. Lleyns lamb in April and they are in at night and out by the day.

I chose these two breeds for their ability to lamb easily on their own and, in the Lleyn’s especially, for their maternal instincts, prolificacy and milking ability. As most of our sheep are pure bred we are interested in genetics including prolificacy and resistance to diseases. In the 1990’s I worked with Warwick and Bristol Universities to try and find a vaccine for a particular sheep disease, this turned out to be very rewarding 3 years work.

Can you recall any particular years when something happened on the farm due to high temperatures or heavy rainfall?

I can remember in the early 1960’s we had snow between Christmas and New Year – a lot of it, 8-10ft high snow drifts. At the time we were milking about 120 cows and had to get the milk churns to the factory about three quarters of a mile away up a hill. We got to a gate about 8ft deep in snow, the wind was blowing and we were digging it out by hand. There were meant to be some ewes and lambs in the field but we couldn’t see them. We presumed they were dead but miraculously we found them all alive as we used a shepherd’s crook to bore down into the snow and dig them out. Wet and cold we arrived back at the farmhouse to bring the ewes and lambs indoors and didn’t let them out again until the end March. All of this done on a flask of whiskey, no food or heating – a typical day in a farmer’s life.

  • Location: Blandford
  • Flock Size: 750
  • Breed Type: Charollais Lleyn

The Woolkeepers® initiative unites the wool supply chain from farm gate to shop. What do you make of this particularly in terms of giving farmers a fairer cut?

We need all the help we can get to promote British agriculture. Many customers do not recognise the amount of work and time that is put into supplying them with our quality products by paying a fair price. In regards to wool, traceability is very important, but also to promote the message that wool is a sustainable and environmentally safe product with many uses in clothes carpets and insulation and is naturally fire resistant.

Close the loop and find out what we made?

The Woolkeepers®  initiative has captured both transparency and traceability in a unique wool assurance scheme which traces wool from farm gate to shop front. Our visibility within the supply chain ensures compliance with safety, sustainability and welfare requirements. Each time we process wool, we create a unique identifier which traces the batch back to farm, as well as forward to our customer.

This batch of wool went to Hypnos Wool Origins Range

Hypnos are a long-established family business with an illustrious Royal history to be proud of. And they pour it all back into our design and craft to hand build the most comfortable beds in the world. Hypnos has taken the next step in its commitment to sustainability by partnering with Red Tractor Food and Farming standards in an industry first that has seen the brand create the pioneering Origins Collection. This range of mattresses uses the most responsibly sourced materials possible, including 100% British wool that’s traceable right back to Red Tractor assured farms.