Clun Forest sheep and goat expert who has moved to Yorkshire and is already making his mark
Del is arguably far better known in the sheep world for his Clun Forests and Kerry Hills than his goats but they became a childhood passion after he had been thrown off a pony.
“When dad said maybe I didn’t want to ride anymore I said, you’re right, I want a brown and white goat, and so he went to market and bought me one.
“Wrotham Tadena and every goat I’ve ever had have all come down from that original goat dad bought. I currently have four females and two are milkers. I’ve been milking them all summer.
“I’ve worked on two big dairy goat farms since coming to Yorkshire, one at Skipton and the other near Northallerton.
Del was present at the Yorkshire Post Rural Awards held a fortnight ago at Pavilions of Harrogate cheering on his good friends Anna Pennell and Anna Wilson who have Clun Forest and Kerry Hill flocks respectively.
“I’ve had Kerry Hill sheep since I was 20. They’re nice to look at and I enjoy showing them when they are well behaved. I’ve done well with them in the pedigree sales. I topped Carlisle market in a breed sale last year with a ewe lamb that made £1200. I sell a few ram lambs privately, which seems to be the way forward for me with them, but their commercial value in the market isn’t that great and that’s why I now just keep a flock of a dozen ewes. That’s plenty.
Del prefers his Clun Forest breed both for their commercial and breed prowess and is working towards producing the Clun Mule. It’s a common thread he shares with Anna (Pennell) and has seen him the chair of the Clun Forest Sheep Breeders Association for five years.
“They are good strong sheep that are very alert and I believe they are much underestimated by those in the commercial sheep sector.
“On a purely commercial footing I can finish Clun lambs purely off grass at 18-20 weeks. They have a lot to offer, which was shown when Anna had Reserve Interbreed Champion at the Great Yorkshire Show a few years ago that went on to win the Interbreed at the Royal Welsh. At that stage you’re up against the big commercial breeds like Texels, Charollais and Suffolk.
“What was really pleasing for me was the ewe lamb that Anna won with was one of two ewe lambs I’d bred and sold to her when she was starting her flock. The Royal Welsh Show is something I really wanted to win as the Clun Forest breed comes from Shropshire on the Welsh border.
“Even though I wasn’t the owner at the time it was lovely to see and filled me with pride seeing something bred from my flock doing so well. I was thrilled for Anna who has become one of the breed’s champions in the past few years.
Del believes the potential of the Clun as a pedigree sheep and the further potential of the Clun Mule as a commercial cross could be brought about in coming years.
“The plan is that I’m going to export some Cluns to Holland next year and I’m also looking initially at a boxed lamb business of the Clun Mule.
“I judged Dutch Clun Forest sheep in Holland last year and have an order for some ram lambs next year. I’ve picked out the cream of my current Clun Forest ewes and shearling ewes that will go to the pedigree Clun Forest tup to breed some breeding stock for over there and here as well. But I also now want some commercial ewes.
“I’ve built up my pedigree Clun flock enough now, with 60 breeding ewes and shearlings, that I can just take the cream, the 30 best ewes, to breed my pedigree stock. I’ve got three different bloodlines to keep the breed going on my own if I need to close the flock off and only bring in fresh blood when I need to.
“I’ve just started a very small flock of Bluefaced Leicesters and have some tups that will tup the other Cluns to bring about the Clun Mules that will produce fat lambs. That’s how I hope to set up the boxed lamb scheme, selling as locally produced grass-fed lamb.
Del currently has 150 sheep, 100 of those being breeding ewes and 50 ewe lambs. He’s maintained his Welsh influence with a few Beulah Speckled Face that he’s tried this year. He doesn’t lamb until around 15 March each year, which may seem odd when other sheep show people are looking to show their lambs as big as they can, and therefore early January-born at such as the Yorkshire, Welsh and Highland, but work comes first.
“March time is a bit quieter for me to concentrate on my own flock. I show a few ewe lambs later on in the season, but I prefer to show the shearling ewes and the tups at the big shows. It’s all about ease of management.
It has been quite a farming journey for the man who comes from Wrotham, near Sevenoaks, and is pronounced ‘Root-em’ he says.
“I grew up on a dairy and pig farm. Due to the M26 coming through the middle of it in 1986 dad had to give up dairy farming and went more into sheep, but the farm wasn’t big enough to keep all the family. I did 5 years as shepherd and farm manager on an open farm for Essex County Council. It had 120,000 visitors a year and I used to do a lot of sheep shearing and milking demonstrations, tractor trailer rides and lambing live events.
“I became farm manager at Oaklands College, St Albans in Hertfordshire teaching agriculture where our lambing weekends attracted about 20,00 visitors a day; and I ran The Sheep Show for a year that many will have seen at agricultural events. Until then I never knew there were three trucks, three Sams, three Susies, basically three of all the breeds all with the same names.
Del is now flock manager for Alastair Trickett at Holt Farm in Arthington where he is responsible for 350 Romney and Aberfield breeding ewes on a low input system and rotational grazing. He also works at Cobble Hall Farm between Roundhay and Shadwell on a beef and arable farm.
“My long-term plan is to farm with my partner Nathan (Mellor). Nathan likes the dairy goats
and would like to run a camping and caravanning site and for us to have a few pigs as well. It’s all very exciting, along with my plans for the Cluns.