Return to Masham Sheep Fair for former champion showing a new breed for the first time

Masham Sheep Fair returns next weekend and one young showman from North Yorkshire will be back to a show he enjoys and debuting a different breed.

Ashley with one of his sheep
Ashley with one of his sheep

Ashley Rudd is head stockman on a livestock farm at Romanby where he has worked for the past decade since moving from Helmsley. In the past six years he has earned a reputation for showing Suffolks at a number of shows where he has had breed champion several times.

Ashley said that his move from Suffolks to the Greyfaced Dartmoors, that he will be showing for the very first time anywhere next Sunday, came about having spoken with a judge at Masham Sheep Fair in September 2019.

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“My fiancée Kiera and I were talking with the Suffolk judge and Kiera had mentioned that she found the Suffolks were just too big and strong for her. The judge said that he had been judging down south and had seen the Greyfaced Dartmoors that were really nice, friendly woolly sheep.

“I’d never heard of them. We looked them up on Google and Kiera said she loved them. They do look good and they are very quiet and easy to handle. They are recognised as a lustre longwool breed.

“A fortnight later I went to York Rare Breeds Sale at Murton having seen there were to be eight Greyfaced Dartmoors in the online catalogue and thought I would surprise Kiera by going along, buying them and bringing them back with me.

“It ended up there being just one tup and no females which was disappointing but I stayed to see how much it made and bought it for 70 guineas. I then needed the females. Fortunately, I managed to find Rachel Bain near Masham who had six for sale, two shearlings and four aged ewes. Kiera went with me that time and I bought them for her as a Christmas present."

Ashley has since had two lambing seasons and has sold tup lambs at Skipton and a ewe that topped the market at Skipton Rare Breed Sale at 180 guineas. He recently helped someone set up a new flock by selling a tup lamb from last year, now a shearling tup, that he had registered and four older ewes unrelated to him. He said he has been pleasantly surprised by the reception he has had with his stock at the rare breed sales and from individual private buyers.

“My flock would now have been nine good quality breeding ewes plus shearlings and gimmer lambs but I’m already seeing good demand for my stock.

“The Greyfaced Dartmoors lamb really well. I have not had to help any of them with lambing. The ewes just get on with it. They are great mothers with lots of milk and really good natured. They can produce two lambs a year but the average is around 140 per cent.

“I generally show at Masham Sheep Fair every year and I have won a couple of first place rosettes previously when I had the Suffolks. It will be interesting to see how the Greyfaced Dartmoors do as it will be their first run out.

“I’m taking more or less the whole of the flock which includes four breeding females, my one main tup, a tup lamb and the three gimmers that will go into my breeding ewe flock for next year’s lambing.

“Kiera gets involved too and my two daughters Rebecca, 15, and Ruby, nine, will be helping show them. Our twin boys Isaac and Elijah have just turned two years old so they may have to wait a short while yet. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone as I’ve not shown anywhere for nearly two years and Masham Sheep Fair is always a great weekend."

Ashley said that one major difference will be in the preparation of his sheep for showing because largely there isn’t any to be done.

“The preparation is getting them there, penning them up, making sure they walk and stand right, but all you are allowed to do with them beforehand is wash their faces. When I had the Suffolks I would be washing and prepping them for two weeks beforehand but the breed society states they are shown in their working clothes.

Ashley sold the last of his Suffolks at Christmas last year and said he is now wholly concentrated on his and Kiera’s Greyfaced Dartmoors.

“Ideally I’d like to get the breeding ewe numbers to fifteen quality ewes which along with the tups and lambs will put me at around thirty to forty head on the 12 acres that I rent locally.

“I would love to be able to afford my own little farm one day but having the rented land and my own sheep is the next best thing. I like showing too. It’s a bit early to say yet just how we will do with them at Masham but if I can eventually do as well as I was doing with the Suffolks I’ll be happy.