Hav­ing tried our hand at look­ing after some generic “farm sheep” that we adopted from a local farmer, we decided to try a rare breed. After some inves­ti­ga­tion decided that the Dorset Downs were the ladies for us. With their strik­ing good looks, placid and friendly tem­pera­ment, and great par­ent­ing skills, they were our per­fect choice. So we set about look­ing for a breeder to help us.

At the Berk­shire Coun­try Show in New­bury we met up with John and Jill Swain who were mid get­ting a few rosette’s at the time. What a lovely cou­ple! From the very first moment we met they couldn’t have been any more help­ful. Since our first meet­ing Jill has held our hand and led us gen­tly into the world of the Dorset Down and through our first lamb­ing sea­son. Always there with help­ful hints, advice and tips. She has become our Shep­herd­ing guru. With the help of Jill and John we came through unscathed and more impor­tantly so did our sheep.

So if you’re won­der­ing about which sheep, I whole­heart­edly rec­om­mend the Dorset Downs, and should you decide to go that route, I can def­i­nitely say that there’s nobody bet­ter than Jill and John to sup­port you!

Good luck and happy shep­herd­ing!
(Mark and Penny Eagle)

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.

sheep in field

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