We all arrive at being sheep producers in different ways. For many of us, the idea of raising sheep doesn’t come along until later in life, even as a retirement hobby. Others take over the family farm and existing sheep operation. For myself, I ventured into my first experiences with sheep when I was about 14 years old. My father’s farm was rented out to a, not very local, sheep farmer in the South of England. At lambing time his management amounted to coming up and checking his flock only as a last resort. So John’s 350 ewes had to do the best they could and on their own. That’s when I came into the equation. “Can’t your young lad keep an eye on things, Mr. Penfold”, he asked my father. So that was my initiation into sheep and my first lambing. I loved that spring and took many photos with my old Brownie Box camera of this ewe and that ewe, etc.. A few years later a BBC program documented a hill farm in North Wales, which ran many hundred sheep. It was a totally different way of life than I had ever been accustomed to and it showed the life of a totally different breed of sheep farmer, the hill farmer. This really caught my eye and my interest. Soon after I left school I advertised for a lambing job on a sheep farm in the hill regions of Britain. The 40th something reply, that I had from this advert, was the job that I had been looking for. It was on a hill farm on the Black Mountains in South Wales, a totally new experience as far as sheep farming and also as far as a completely different way of life than I had ever known.
Dewi Kept about a thousand Welsh cross sheep and 60 Welsh Black cows, an old breed of cattle. I worked for Dewi on his sheep and cattle farm for about 4 years, on and off, and then I eventually immigrated to Canada to start farming on my own.
Sheep farming was still my interest but Western Canada had a small flock and it was a while before I managed to buy my first flock of sheep, some 40 Cheviot cross ewes. As the years progressed, and the 70s turned into the 80s, we eventually built up to running a flock of some 550 Suffolk cross sheep in Nova Scotia, producing some 850 to 900 fat lambs a year. It was during our time in Nova Scotia that I started Rural Route Videos and in 1990 I began the task of gathering the footage to make up the instructional video, The Basics of Good Sheep Management.
We still run a flock of ewes from our small farm in Western Canada. From our experiences using the Clun Forest breed during our time on the East Coast, we decided that if we were only going to have a small flock then we should buy a purebred flock of Cluns and sell some breeding stock as well. We loved our Clun Forest rams and cross bred ewe lambs that we raised in Nova Scotia and so we decided it had to be a small flock of Cluns. And that’s where we’re at today, 55 Clun ewes, and about 55 Red Poll cows, plus the chickens and Border Collies and a solitary Berkshire sow.
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