A History of the Four Jays Dorset Down Flock
John and Jill Swain moved from the bright lights of Bristol some years ago, to a typical Somerset cottage in a small village near Weston-Super-Mare. The cottage did not have electricity or a bathroom but it did have 3 acres with a rhyne bisecting it. For 3 years they lived in 2 caravans in the middle of the field, with only a beach donkey for company, but he had to be returned to work.
What to do with the field?
Eventually we decided on pedigree sheep in the hope that many would go for breeding. We went to the Bath and West Show and sought the advice of the then Meat Research Institute. They suggested Dorset Down Sheep as being docile and happy in small paddocks and a prime terminal sire. We walked past hundreds of sheep and found the Dorset Downs and fell in love. They were like a Thelwell sheep, lovely brown faces and round cuddly bodies, looking like proper traditional sheep. Even more impressive, a Dorset Down was judged supreme champion at the Show. Little did we dream that in the future we would breed our own supreme champions.
Over the years we have managed to buy more land around us, ending up with over 40 acres; one field costing more than the original cottage! This meant we could increase the size of our flock.
We thought we would initially try buying off-farm and this is what I would recommend to prospective buyers. This allows you to see the sheep in it’s environment and meet the seller. My pedigree sheep are my friends and are usually relaxed around strangers. I always say ″Let the sheep choose you!″
Our initial flock consisted of 8 hopefully pregnant ewes and a ram lamb from a Somerset farmer, along with 8 ewes from Berwick-upon-Tweed. They were all broken-mouth, i.e. older ewes but with careful handling went on for many years.