SHEEP AT WILDEN
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Our ewe flock has been closed since the 1980's with the exception of a few we inherited 15 years ago with some land that we rent. We feel this gives us advantages of more control over our genetic material and some degree of biosecurity (at least it's the Devil you know!). Our lambs are all tagged at birth and details kept including parentage, weight, dosing history and need for hoof care.
Ewe lambs are selected initially on general soundness, weight at weaning and their parents' and grandparents' prolificacy. A few are added with lower prolificacy records but exceptional muscling. They are kept on a low input regime over their first winter and reliance on worming for parasite control is carefully withdrawn in their shearling year. This inevitably shows up some individuals that simply do not have what it takes to live here and these are culled out by body weight as they go in to the tup for the first time.
Similar criteria are used for ram lambs but more emphasis is placed on muscling, straightness of legs and feet and of course selection pressure for them is much higher - we aim to keep about 10 through to shearlings to see how well they will winter and how they cope without regular worming. Only the best of get to breed!
A few years of imposing this system has produced a sheep that no longer looks like any of the breeds you will see at the shows. They are basically Texel type but are finer boned and have less facial hair. The ewes that perform best are medium sized and have a large body capacity in relation to their height. Most will remain healthy and clean without anthelmintics and they are productive on extremely cobalt/selenium deficient soil with minimal supplementation. Their lambs finish at 19-21kg at E2-3L.
Experience suggests that very few families will produce stock that will cope with our conditions. As a result our sheep are becoming line-bred. This situation needs careful monitoring and some considerable thought at tupping time. We maintain a few 'outcross' families to keep the genepool healthy.
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