A couple of weeks ago at half term I went to visit local young sheep farmers, Archie and Oscar, aged 9 and 11. I spent a wonderful morning with the boys on their parents farm, and they took the time to talk me through their flock. I couldn't believe at such a young age the involvement and knowledge that both the brother's had to share with me.
Archie and Oscar with one of their prize winning ewes.
How long have you been interested in sheep and how did you become so involved with them?
We have been interested in sheep for a while and have had them for about 18 months. Our Dad bought our first two Suffolk ewe's at a sale and gave them to us for our Christmas present!
What made you choose the Suffolk breed?
We both wanted different breeds to begin with but in the end settled on the Suffolk's as there are less in our area so we felt there would be more demand for them. They are one of the fastest growing native breeds and can outgrow a continental, so are well known for there meat quality. Our largest lamb was 18lbs at birth and now at 5 weeks weighs in at 34lbs. We also really like their lovely black faces!
How many Suffolk sheep do you now have in your flock?
We have 30 in total at this present time which includes, 9 ewes, 3 shearling rams, 4 shearling ewes, 10 ram lambs and 4 ewe lambs.
How many lambs have you had this year?
We have had 14 live lambs this January.
Oscar, 9, holding one of the January born lambs.
A pair of orphan lambs that Archie and Oscar are bottle feeding 3 times a day and kept under a heat lamp.
You have obviously been very busy lambing this January, are the Suffolk easy to lamb or did you have to help out a lot?
Yes we have been very busy lambing this January, they all seemed to lamb at once (within 8 days). Our Dad did have to step in and help a couple of the ewes, but most of them were born on their own.
What do you plan to do with this year’s lambs; will you be selling them on or retaining some for breeding stock?
We will hopefully sell all the ram lambs for breeding and keep the ewe lambs to increase our own flock.
Archie holding one of the January born lambs.
Ewes and lambs, the lambs will stay with their mother until they are weaned at 5 months old.
You show your Suffolk sheep, what do you look for in a prize-winning sheep?
We would look for a lovely face, good back end, and a nice good fleece and all black bits should be black!
What is involved in your show preparation?
In preparation for the shows we have to trim their feet, wash and dye the wool. We also have to halter break them so they behave when being lead around the ring! Once at the show we use oil on their black bits and fleece fix.
Why do you feel showing is important for you and your sheep?
We feel showing is important as it means that other flocks get to know who you are and they get to see your stock.
Archie and Oscar showing at local agricultural shows last Summer, at the Aylsham Show last August the boys came away with four 1st prizes with their Suffolk sheep.
What is your favourite thing about owning sheep?
Our favourite thing about owning sheep is watching the lambs being born, then watching them grow and play together.
What advice would you give someone looking to get sheep?
If someone was looking to get into sheep we would advise that they think carefully about the breed they choose, as all breeds have pros and cons.
Archie and Oscar with their shearling ram, Gordon.
Keep a look out for how Archie and Oscar's Suffolk sheep have inspired some new design ideas...
I am Izzi, farmer’s daughter and textile designer at IzziRainey. If I am not designing or sewing you will find me out in the farmyard with my cattle. I am constantly seeking inspiration for my prints, not that I have to look very far. Growing up on the farm, I have always been influenced by my surroundings and this combined with my passion for farming is what inspires my designs. I love spending time on the farm but I also enjoy learning about other people’s animals, passions and stories, which are also influential to my design process. I hope you enjoy reading ‘Over the Farm Gate’