Tell us a bit about your background and how long you have been farming for.
I have farmed for 25 years and I have to say I’ve never had the urge to do anything else. I did however go repping for 2 years, selling farm animal feed. This only underlined my farming urge and realised I was not a salesman.
Tell us more about your farm and the activities you do.
Dad and I have farmed here for the last 20 years, but he is unable to do too much physically now. I have help from various family members if I need it, but I also have Ben here for two days a week. He started with me just on Saturday mornings whilst he was still school and although from a non-farming background, he’s still here 2 years later and keener than ever. I’m hoping he will have a long term future with us and the farm. I also have Ryan, a local contractor, who comes in for a few hours a day during the winter to help feed the cattle.
I’m actually the 4th generation of the family to farm here at Hill Street. The 320 acres farmed here is mostly tenanted and is either permanent or temporary grass. We grow about 20 acres of roots every year to feed the sheep in late winter and break up grass rotations.
How many sheep do you have and what breed types?
The farm carries 400 pedigree ewes, with 100 followers. It also runs 250 cattle. Both livestock enterprises are important but most of my interest lies in the breeding and genetics of the sheep. Data recorded is analysed by Signet breeding services and compared with other Dorset breeders. We have over the years attended lots of breed shows and sales. We are the first Dorset breeders to have an on-farm production sale. Our first sale was carried out in 2017, with our third planned for July 31st 2021.
What do you enjoy about working with sheep and what is the hardest part?
Working with the sheep brings lots of ups and downs, and having so many usually means you don’t have a favourite, although some ewes stand out having produced good breeding lambs. The most satisfying thing with breeding is seeing your stock perform for other breeders who have purchased sheep from you.
The breed has certainly gone from strength to strength, nationally. It’s ability to lamb at any time of the year and thrive in most conditions, has meant that we now have over 500 members in our national flock book.
The hardest thing working with any stock is now the weather. We seem to have so many extremes, varying between long periods of dry weather to days of heavy rain. Both have an effect on grass or roots, but wet and mud are difficult to cope with.
Describe a “day in the life” of you?
My typical day starts at about 6-6:30am with checking stock. This usually throws up a problem or two which will need sorting out. The rest of my day depends on what time of year it is. We may be hauling fodder, putting in seed, applying fertiliser or doing groundwork. If there’s any spare time, there’s always a fence or gate to sort out!
The end of the day brings a second feed for some of the younger cattle and checking anything we had a problem in the morning. This is done 6 days a week. On Sunday, unless we’re collecting in forage, we will only check and feed stock.
How do you think farming practices have changed over the years?
Farming has changed over the last ten years in that every cost has to be closely scrutinised. The Dorset has allowed us to make more use of grazed grass and dovetail with the cattle enterprise. This allows us to keep more stock and reduce labour inputs without affecting the animal’s welfare.
- Location: Holwell
- Flock Size: 500
- Breed Types: Dorset
What do you love about wool and why do you think it’s a good fibre?
Wool is a fantastic natural product! It keeps the sheep warm in winter and cool in early summer. It’s also fire retardant.
How long does it take to shear your flock?
Shearing on the farm is done over several days. The young females are sheared in late spring. This allows them the whole summer to grow. The main flock of 400 ewes is sheared in one day in late May, once successfully mated in mid-April .
What do you think to being a part of the Woolkeepers initiative unites the wool supply chain from farm gate to shop?
We have been very encouraged by the involvement of Brannach Olann (Woolkeeper partner) in our wool production. It’s always been frustrating not being able to tell people about this fantastic natural fibre, when it used to be such a valuable commodity. The hard work that goes into its production and the skill of the shearers should surely be rewarded.
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 Woolroom Ltd.
Woolroom is a rural retailer-based right in the heart of England. They believe there is a better way to do sleep and understand that rather than making a purchasing based on price, we should be thinking about what is going to deliver each individual the best night’s sleep, as well as what is going to have the best possible impact on this beautiful planet. You’ll find a range of temperature regulating, hypoallergenic duvets, pillows and mattress toppers that are expertly hand-crafted to help you fall back in love with sleep – night after night. What’s more, you can buy with confidence knowing that your order will be delivered as naturally as possible, with absolutely zero synthetics. They also offer the UK’s only range of machine washable wool bedding.