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Meet the Gritstones

Posted: Tuesday 11th November 2014 by WoodsideJon

All lined up by Ellen FinnerenAll lined up by Ellen Finneren

No not the modern stone-age family but our new breed of sheep.

Woodside currently has a flock of Jacob ewes, these pied sheep, with their striking horns have been used to clear areas of the reserve of invasive scrub, as well as providing meat for our lamb box scheme. Last year a Gritstone ram was used on some of the ewes and the resulting offspring produced a better carcass than the pure bred Jacobs.

Gritstones are a breed native to Derbyshire and are one of the oldest of British sheep breeds. They are bred to survive in difficult environments and their lambs grow quickly and healthily.

With this in mind Jenny and I set off to Bakewell Market to the last of this years breeding sheep sales. Several lots of Gritstones were for sale and we spent some time assessing them, checking their mouth and overall condition. You can tell a lot from a sheep’s teeth, mainly its age. Like many mammals, sheep start off with milk teeth, these are replaced by their adult teeth from the front. Older animals start to loose their teeth and very old sheep can survive, but not thrive, with no teeth at all.

The price of breeding sheep is linked to their age. Lambs are generally cheaper as are older ewes. Top prices are paid for first year breeders (known as a gimmers or theaves in different parts of the country) and sheep that have been bred from once.

I bid on a pen of theaves first, lovely looking sheep, all very similar in age and conformation. Competition was strong and it’s always important to stick to your limit, especially with someone elses money! These went to another bidder, as did the next lot of theaves. The next lot were a pen of second year breeders. Again bidding was strong and they quickly went out of our price range. Last lot of the day where six older ewes which I’m pleased to say where soon loaded into our trailer for their journey south.

They have settled in well. Having come from a hill farm they are wary of people and we have spent some time ‘bucket training’ them - getting them used to following the rattle of feed in a bucket. This makes moving them around the site and loading them easier.

We have now introduced our Gritstone Ram, affectionately known as Dog, to them and we hope to hear the patter of tiny Gritstone feet in the spring, the ewe lambs of which will be kept to continue or small flock of this noble native breed.

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