February 2017 at Glenlee Farm

The first new season lamb for 2017 arrived at Glenlee Farm last week.  An unexpected, unplanned and unexplained arrival, this lamb was born with two siblings, however, foxes appear to have taken both on successive days after their birth. The damage wrought by cats and foxes to vulnerable fauna this ancient landscape is heartbreaking on so many levels. While predators have a role in all evolving ecosystems, introduced predators can be particularly destructive especially feral cats and foxes.

I guess it is the instinct of farmers and shepherds ‘world wide’ to want to protect their livestock from predator attack and while there is definitely a financial element, it’s the emotional aspect that sticks most in my mind.

2017 will be a novel year for Glenlee Farm. Although my family has been farming here for over 150 years, this will be the first time we’ll see the arrival of the progeny from Black Faced Dorper rams crossed with our sturdy Dorset ewes. According to Wikipedia, the Dorper is a South African breed of domestic sheep developed by crossing Dorset Horn and the Blackhead Persian sheep.

The name ‘Dorper’ is a coupling of the first syllables of the parent breeds Dorset and Persian. What is exciting about this experiment for us is the opportunity to observe whether these progeny have increased plant utilisation in their grazing habits. Dorpers willingly graze and browse twigs and vegetation usually ignored by other breeds. We hope that the genetics we’ve introduced will result in higher plant utilisation in pastures sequentially grazed (rotational grazing).

One of our environmental objectives this year is to increase plant diversity across our landscape and to test what the impact is from a nutritional perspective.

We are currently seeking grant funding assistance to conduct research on the impact that pastures with a mix of 35 or more plant types, including native grasses, legumes and herbs, has on the nutritional profile of animals. This natural, free-range grazing form of bio-fortification holds exciting prospects for landscape regeneration, animal welfare and the economic returns for our Wild Food and Wild Lamb brands.

As more news from our research partners is made available, I’ll keep you posted.

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