Sam Driver is part of a large scale family farming enterprise based between Derbyshire and Cheshire. Sam’s grandfather, Stanley, first came to Sandy Lane Farm, Glossop, Derbyshire in 1942 when the farm comprised of only 28 acres. It is fair to say that through hard work, dedication and an enthusiasm for one breed of sheep in particular things have grown considerably!
Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset sheep have played an integral part in the development of this farming dynasty which now includes Stanley, Sam’s father Johnie, uncle Roy and cousin Josh. Unbelievably Sandy Lane Farm now includes 500 acres with a further 1,500 acres of rented land. Apart from a small quantity of fodder crops, it is all grass at a height of between 120 and 365 metres (450 to 1200ft).
Dorset Horn rams first arrived at Sandy Lane in 1952 when they were crossed with the local Lonk ewe. The subsequent off-spring were retained for breeding - a cross which they still use today due to their size, frame, milkiness and mothering ability from the Dorset.
The present day see’s nearly 6,000 breeding females at Sandy Lane, which comprise:
1. 1,000 Dorset cross Lonk ewes put to Texel rams
2. 2,500 horned ewes, split between Blue Face Leicester and Dorset rams, with a few going to the Lonk
3. 1,500 polled commercial ewes, put to Texel/Suffolk rams
In addition to this, Sam runs his own pedigree flock of Dorset Horn and Poll Dorsets, which currently numbers 100 horned and 120 polled ewes. This flock stems from a visit to the May Fair in Exeter in 1997 when Stanley purchased 11 horned ewes from Francis Fooks as a foundation for Sam’s flock. Sam followed those purchases with some of his own in 1998 and his first stock ram from Jim Dufosee’s Blackhill flock.
Sam’s intends to develop his pedigree flock, commenting:
“I intend to continue to build up numbers, particularly the horned ones, as they are now a rare breed. I think many of the older generation who bred them have now gone, so it’s becoming increasingly important to keep the breed going.”
Such is Sam’s progress within the breed that in 2009 he was second in the society’s large flock competition, after being third the previous year - the first time he had entered. He was also third in the ewe lamb category.
With the wide variety of ewes at Sandy Lane, Sam and his family find themselves lambing nearly all year round. This is only possible with the strong influence of Dorset running through the females – as the only
UK breed able to lamb naturally at any time of the year.
A steady stream of prime lamb are sold deadweight at 10 to 12 weeks of age and killing out at 16 to 19kg and delivered directly to a variety of different abattoirs. This is all achieved with no creep feeding and Sam firmly believes this would be impossible without the Dorset.