MAUD Walker grew up with Dorset sheep and her love of the breed encouraged her to set up her own pedigree flock 10 years ago.
Now the Dupin Dorset flock at Barwinnock Farm, Whauphill, New-ton Stewart, fits in well with the management and grazing for the pedigree Holstein herd.
The farm runs to 450 owned acres, 100 acres of which are combined barley and wheat crops for use on the farm. In an area of South West Scotland which is influenced by the Gulf Stream, the farm is excellent for growing grass with early turnout for the 200-cow Barwinnock dairy herd which averages 10,800 litres and milk is sold to Arla.
The Dorset ewe’s ability to lamb out of season at any time of year has allowed the flock to fit in with the grazing system and management of the dairy herd.
“I enjoy breeding the Dorsets and they do have great benefits grazing the fields behind the cattle – ragwort is a thing of the past!
“Running the flock has paid off. They are easily managed, very docile and great mothers with lambs quickly up and suckling. They produce a good finished lamb off grass with some home grown supplementary feed,” said Maud.
Maud grew up on the family beef and sheep farm, Dupin Farm, near Girvan, where her father Jim Blain ran a flock of November-lambing commercial Dorsets.
When Maud moved to Barwinnock 20 years ago when she and Jamie married, she hankered over starting her own pedigree Dorset flock – despite some resistance from Jamie!
Now their daughters, Ruth, 14, and Ella, seven, have their own sheep in the flock and they are keen to get involved with the dairy herd.
It was in 2010 that Maud’s brother Peter was shearing and came across a previously-registered flock for sale in Buckinghamshire and they bought the flock between them.
Maud bought six ewes and a ram Rossiz Number One bought at the Worcester sale and the first lambs were born in January 2011. The flock was approved and registered under the Dupin prefix in 2012.
Ten years later Maud was honoured to host the Scottish Dorset Breeders’ Club open day and annual meeting in March this year which was attended by more than 100 people.
Numbers have been built up over the decade with a few purchases but now all the females in the flock are home-bred.
Partly, because of the open day, but also to make better use of the weather and grazing the farm’s grassland behind the dairy herd, the flock was lambed in September 2021 and January this year – a switch from November and February. This year 50 are due to lamb in September – these have scanned with five sets of triplets, 29 twins and 16 singles – and 30 in January.
“September is a busy time for us to lamb because of the harvest but the weather is better and its not so labour intensive – and we still have masses of grass,” said Maud.
The ewes are housed overnight to make it easier for Maud with the girls going to school and most were back outside the day after lambing.
Round plastic water troughs which are being replaced with concrete ones have been used as lamb hutches to provide shelter if the lambs need it.
The first September born prime lambs were sold on January 5 by which time more than half the crop was ready. They sold as new season lamb for £3 a kg weighing 44kg through the local market Craig Wilson in Newton Stewart. They were bought for London restaurants.
“That was the first time the auctioneer had sold new season lamb in January and we were very pleased with the result,” said Maud. “I really didn’t push them. They do get some home-grown creep feed but not a lot. I’m definitely going to continue with the September lambing.” All of the lambs were sold by March.
The ewes were on grass parks at lambing and were supplemented with mineral licks. The lambs were introduced to home-grown creep from mid to late October.
The Dorset ewes fit well into the farming year. The dairy cows are out by mid-April by which time all of the September born lambs have been sold finished with only the January-born lambs on-farm.
Through the summer the ewes follow the cows and youngstock grazing and they also go onto some of the rougher ground grazed by the dry cows.
By the time the cows are housed in September there is still plenty of grass which the ewes and lambs graze through the winter, tidying up the pasture.
The two lambings split the workload taking the pressure off for Maud who manages the flock as well as doing other work on the farm – and looking after Ruth and Ella.
She is grateful for all the help from the family as well as from the farm’s staff. The lambings are kept tight with last season’s running for exactly a month each.
It also gives ewes which have not held in lamb to run over into the next lambing, particularly ewe lambs which Maud prefers to lamb at 15 to 16 months old which she says is a “sweet spot” for them.
Current stock rams include Rivervalley Dingle Dangle which was was bought from Northern Ireland breeder Andrew Kennedy.
Home bred stock rams currently being used are Dupin Davey and Dupin Exercise, a son of Dingle Dangle.
“The original ewes I bought were smaller, traditional Dorsets. I am breeding bigger ewes with length and shape. Ballytaggart D2168 Big Tommy has bred well for the flock bringing shape and good gigots. Sandylane Avenger has also improved the ewes. I’m hoping to keep that breeding going with Dingle Dangle,” said Maud.
Maud supports the club and association sales in Stirling and Carlisle, mainly with sales of females. Breeding and producing the females for sale gives her great enjoyment.
She sold her first Dorsets at the Carlisle August sale in 2015 and her ewes are always in the top average for pens and females.
Maud also sells ewe lambs and a tup to breeders in Wales and the Scottish Borders for breeders to start their own flocks. Most rams sell readily from home.
In the Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset Sheep Association’s annual flock competition the Dupin flock has been in the top medium flocks for a number of years.
At the open day James Royan judged the ewe lambs and the champion was sold for charity.
The ewe lamb Dupin Elsie Jim, names after Jamie and Maud’s late parents respectively, was auctioned by Andrew Hunter Blair and it sold for £410. Coupled with donations, it raised a total of £1,340 which was divided between Cancer Research UK and Alzheimer Scotland.
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