2018-05-04  facebooktwitterrss

Joe Concentrates on Dorset Sheep

Buyers and vendors from across the UK will be attending the first major breeding sheep sale of the year in Exeter on May 8-9 - the Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset Sheep Breeders’ Association annual May Fair.

Conducted by Kivells in Exeter Livestock Centre, the two day event which starts with a pre-sale show on Tuesday, has an entry of 156 Poll Dorset and Dorset Horn rams, 23 individual females sold through the ring and around 1,775 females in the pens for Wednesday’s sale.

Joe Larder

Joe Larder

The sale is one of the largest in the UK for commercial early lambing ewes as well as pedigree rams and ewes and it provides a yardstick for the year’s forthcoming breeding sheep sales.

“The numbers of sheep entered are once again strong and prospective purchasers will be able to see the progress the breed is continuing to make, not only in the quality of the sheep but in the popularity of the Dorset in all corners of the UK,” said Scottish Borders Poll Dorset breeder and association chairman James Royan.

“There are entries from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the May Fair will also attract purchasers from across the UK. The breed has taken on board tools to improve breeding and genetic progress through Signet, Myomax and Loinmax to develop versatile sheep suitable as a terminal sire or for its maternal traits,” he added.

The breed uniquely has the ability to lamb out of season enabling it to dovetail with other farming enterprises and even breeders’ careers.

One breeder who has entries for this year’s May Fair is Somerset breeder Joe Larder who has had his own flock since he was 11.

Now aged 30, his Byeways flock of 90 pedigree ewes which are easily managed fits in perfectly with his work as a quantity surveyor.

Joe runs the flock on his 12 acre smallholding plus 55 acres of rented land at Waldon Acres, Sandford, and for the May Fair, five ram lambs, two individual ewe lamb entries and two shearling ewes have been selected.

While not from a farming background, his late father Dave and his mother Wendy ran a herd of 10 pedigree Aberdeen Angus cows on the family’s smallholding. When Dave passed away six years ago, Joe, Wendy and his wife Rachel, an English teacher at a local secondary school, decided to concentrate on the Dorsets to lessen the workload.

Around 80 of of the ewes are now home-bred with the remainder bought at Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset Sheep Association sales and dispersal sales. The latter have been run with a home-bred ram.

Such has been Joe’s success in developing the flock that it won the association’s overall national flock competition two years ago and it was Medium flock winner in 2011. Along with show success at local shows such as the New Forest and Hampshire, Gillingham and Shaftesbury and Mid Somerset.

“In building up the flock, my focus has always been on getting the females right. I like to breed strong, compact ewes with strong heads and I want consistency in my females.

“I concentrate on the maternal traits of the Dorset breed which are their high milk yields, mothering ability and the ability to finish lambs at 35-40kg at any time of the year,” said Joe, who is a member of the association’s council. Over the years he has had a lot of support from the association and other Dorset breeders.

“A lot of people are looking to buy Dorsets - the breed is going from strength to strength. The beauty of the Dorset is it’s ability to lamb out of season and three times in two years if it suits the system,” he added.

The Byeways flock lambs indoors for ease of management in September at night and the ewes run out in the day and ewes and lambs are then turned out as grass growth is good and the weather is usually warm .

In 2017, around 80 ewes lambed within two and a half weeks. Joe likes to keep the lambing tight as he takes time off work. He is helped by Rachel and Wendy.

All the ram lambs are kept entire and any not retained for breeding along with females which don’t meet the breed characteristics have been sold finished on the Dorset Waitrose scheme for the last three years.

Poll Dorset Horn

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