The Northern Dorset Breeders Club held their annual pre AGM farm walk at Sam Drivers Sandy Lane farm on Saturday 7th September. The weather forecast was poor, but after a dull, cool start, the sun came out in the afternoon as we toured around the widely dispersed land that the family farms.
When we arrived, we found 4 groups of Dorsets – shearling rams, ram lambs, shearling ewes and ram lambs – penned up ready for us to attempt to put them in ‘show’ order. All good sheep, but some in better condition and more true to type than others. This kept the visitors busy for quite a while in between the chit chat.
The day formally began with introductions from the chairman and the 15 to 20 breeders who attended. Sam then explained to us details of the farm, the flocks and the management systems employed, along with the breed types. They farm a total of approximately 1,200 acres with 4,500 breeding ewes. This was after the coffee and biscuits of course!
Cathryn, who had previously inspected and placed the penned sheep into show order, explained to us what positions she had put them in and why. After some discussion regarding what to look for when judging Dorsets, it was decided to have a ‘mock’ show class to help breeders show their sheep to best advantage. Sam used his expertise to explain what he would look for when judging, giving examples of faults as well as the good points.
I am sure that this helped aspiring show men, as well as those breeders looking to improve the quality and conformation of their flocks.
Afer the gorgeous lunch (from crisps to cream!) laid on for us in the barn, we set off in 4x4 vehicles to view the various flocks. Firstly, we saw some in lamb Dorsets, plus some ewe lambs, not far from Manchester airport. The background ‘music’ was quite distracting at first, but the quality of the sheep soon made us focus on them and Sam’s description of how he managed them.
At the next stop on our round trip, we saw the Dorset stock tups and then on to the shearling tups. Sam explained to us the background and breeding of them in great detail. We were all taken aback by his ability to remember all those details. They all looked to be in very good condition, with good conformation.
Just over the fence we could see some of their Swaledale flock grazing on the hilly higher parts of the farm. Then on to the Lonk cross Dorset commercial flock, some 400 plus in all, currently having Texel and Suffolk tups running with them.
These were used to supply the early lamb trade, and were culled after 4 crops to avoid any problems associated with age.
Lastly, but not least, back to the farmstead and over the road to the September lambing Dorsets. These lamb unaided outside on a low cost grass based system. They too looked well and were producing lambs on the day. Some future May Fair exhibits here?!
After another cup of tea, we all set off for the nearby Moorfield Arms to hold our club AGM followed by an evening meal.
As a club, we would like to put on record our thanks to Sam for organising what was a very informative, interesting and enjoyable day. To Helen and her helpers for the generous provision of such good food and drink and to Harry for his input in providing information, vehicle driving and rounding up some of the sheep so that we had a good view of them.
Thank you all very much.