25 November 2000
Renaissance for Wensleydale sheep
by Jeremy Hunt
WENSLEYDALE sheep are becoming increasing popular, claims Yorkshire farmer Alan Duffield, who has been breeding the animals for nearly 20 years.
Interest from commercial flockmasters appears to have surged for the Wensleydale breed of sheep which has a long and lustrous fleece.
“The Wensleydale is one of the UKs biggest sheep breeds and it has got plenty to offer commercial sheep producers,” said Mr Duffield.
He farms 120ha (300-acres) at Husthwaite, near York, growing cereals to supply the familys breeding and finishing pig unit.
Although the popularity of the Wensleydale waned in the 1980s, by the early 1990s interest was rekindled. Now the breed society has more than 200 members.
There are about 30 ewes in Mr Duffields flock.
Although most are bred pure, the commercial value of the breed has been proved when ewes are crossed with Suffolk and Charollais rams.
“The Wensleydale ewe will produce tremendously meaty lambs and the breed is renowned for its high level of resistance to scrapie,” he said.
Mr Duffields four March-born Wensleydale entries for the show weigh about 45kg. But thats nothing compared with the breeds weight-gain potential.
“A big cutting carcass is ideal for todays meat trade supplying the market for ready-made lamb meals,” he said.
“Although Wensleydales may be late maturing, like many of the old, traditional breeds, they have retained a truly wonderful flavour.”