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What do you know about Sheep?

Living on a Cattle and sheep farm on Dartmoor, these 'woolly jumpers' star majorly in our farming calendar.

Within the Dartmoor National Park you could come across all number of breeds of sheep, from the two Dartmoor breeds (fairly lowlander sheep) the Black face whose fleece is classified as Lustre Long wool. , hornless, deep bodied, short legged, with well woolled head and legs. The white face is  mottled or spotted with black or grey with matching feet.  A clip of 7-9kg can be expected with a higher yield (up to 15kg) from mature rams.  The White face Dartmoor 's wool can weigh up to 7kg when shorn, the white face is a hardy type and can withstand very wet and cold weather. More info can be found on the breeders associations websites : and

Now we do not farm Dartmoor sheep being on the top of Dartmoor at 435 m above sea level, but have the tougher and more agile Swaledale and Scotch Blackface - these hardy types do not produce much wood, although the wool clip from sheep on Dartmoor 70 years ago used to pay the rent of the farms - wool was a very important commodity, unfortunately nowadays it is more expensive to shear the sheep than the money you get for the wool a very sad state of affairs as wool is a good insulator, has fire resistant properties and is organic in matter.  Time will tell if it raises itself in fashion again.

Lambing on Dartmoor is usually from 1st April, it always amuses me that if you put the rams in with the ewes on the 5th November (bang bang as Guy Fawkes night) lambing should start on April 1st (April fools day), who is the biggest fool amongst us farmers?  sheep come in from the commons to lamb, a lot of farmers 'pregnancy scan' their ewes which along with telling us which ones are barren, also enables us to feed the sheep to fit in with whether they are having one or two lambs, or maybe three! three is not so good as sheep only have two milk teats on their udder in comparison to cattle with four.

A lot of Dartmoor farmers like to breed and show sheep at the local and county shows, such as Devon County held at Exeter in May and the Royal Cornwall Show held at Wadebridge in early June, both are really good days out for all the family with livestock, crafts, food, entertainment - more than one day out, sometimes you have to make it two!

Written by Justine Colton



















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