Shropshires head for French orchards

Marion and Aubrey Webb from Usher Farm, Gilmorton, Lutterworth, are the first British farmers to export pedigree Shropshire Down sheep to France, specifically for use in commercial fruit tree cultures.


A consignment of 27 animals left the Webb’s farm at the end of July and was delivered to Herve Duclos, a cider and calvados producer based in St Michel D’Halescourt, Rouen, north west France


The sheep will be used to control weeds and herbage between Monsieur Duclos’ apple trees. This is a new use for Shropshire sheep which recently came to light following a trial at a fruit growing research centre in Germany. 


The trial showed that, unlike other breeds of sheep, Shropshires will not damage fruit trees by stripping bark.


They are suitable for environmentally-friendly weed control and can help farmers reduce the need for herbicides and expensive mowing. The use of Shropshires in Christmas tree plantations is already well established and thousands of the sheep are kept for this task in northern European countries, such as Denmark, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.


The French buyer first made contact with the Webbs via e-mail, having searched the Internet for Shropshire sheep and found their contact details on the breed society’s website, explains Marion: “Monsieur Duclos was interested in buying stock that had been vaccinated against bluetongue from one supplier.


This area was moved into a BT protection zone early in summer, so we could meet his requirements. Our farm is relatively close to East Midlands airport, so Herve was able to make a day trip to Leicestershire to select his own stock from the animals we had available.”


The export consignment of 14 ewes, 11 ewe lambs and two ram lambs left Usher Farm, Gilmorton at 6am on 24 July and arrived 12 hours later at their destination in France.  Transport was arranged by Mike Adams from Gloucestershire, who specialises in international livestock haulage.


The Webbs’ flock of 80 pedigree Shropshire sheep was established in 1996. The couple also run a dairy herd of 120 Holstein Friesians, a Charolais cross beef enterprise and grow around 100 acres of cereals.