Tatton’s Home Farm welcomes a n’ewe rare breed!
Thursday 7th March saw the arrival of a new rare breed to Tatton Park’s Home Farm, the Whitefaced Woodland Sheep. Home Farm has been selected to give these animals a home on permanent loan from conservation charity the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST).
The RBST have been working closely with the Whitefaced Woodland Sheep Society to choose the lucky sheep who would join the Cheshire set and it was the Society which suggested Tatton’s Rare Breed Farm as an ideal location for the flock. The breed is classed as vulnerable by the RBST with only 500-900 breeding females left in the country and Tatton will carry out an important role in promoting the breed through a conservation breeding programme.
The Whitefaced Woodland Sheep is a local breed which originated in the Pennines on the borders of Derbyshire and Yorkshire. It is one of the largest hill breeds which has a relatively fine fleece, and is a commercially viable breed which is very hardy and able to thrive on harsh terrain and poor quality grazing. Both ewes and rams are horned with rams having heavy spiralled horns.
As the name suggests the face and head are white as are the legs. Rare breeds such as this are part of our heritage as a farming nation, and is why the farm at Tatton feel so strongly about preserving these breeds for the future. In 2007 Home Farm at Tatton was approved as a Conservation Farm Park by the RBST in recognition of its work with rare breeds.
To raise money to buy the sheep, The Rare Breeds Survival Trust, which celebrates its fortieth year this year, set the ball rolling with an online appeal called ‘The Big Give Christmas Challenge’ made possible by an initial pledge from RBST Vice President Lord Iliffe. This appeal raised enough money to buy six ewes and an unrelated ram. The sheep were purchased from another Conservation Farm Park, Newham Grange in Middlesborough and from other Whitefaced Woodland breeders to maximise genetic diversity within the flock.
Tatton Park has welcomed the six shearlings (year old ewes) this March and plan to breed from them in the Autumn, so the first lambs will be on display in Spring 2014. In exchange for looking after the sheep, all the lambs will belong to Tatton Park.
Ruth Dalton, Field Officer for the RBST, expressed her excitement about the arrival of the Whitefaced Woodland Sheep at Tatton: “We are delighted to be able to work with Home Farm Tatton Park, an RBST Approved Conservation Farm Park, to showcase this lovely breed. The Whitefaced Woodland has superb qualities and is a very appealing sheep, I’m sure visitors will enjoy seeing them grow and produce lambs of their own next year.”
At Tatton’s Home Farm, farm assistant Ellie Edwards is equally delighted; she spoke of the farm staff’s excitement, “We are so excited to be welcoming these very rare sheep, and feel privileged that we’ve been chosen to help promote and support a native breed such as the Whitefaced Woodland sheep. As a rare breeds farm we feel passionate about and are dedicated to the preservation of native breeds.”
Tatton’s Farm is open in low season (to March 22nd 2013) every weekend 11am-4pm, last entry 3pm. In high season (March 23rd to October 27th) it is open every day except Monday 12pm to 5pm (last entry 4pm). Entry charges apply.