The Bowmont Merino sheep have been selectively bred for British conditions, generation after generation to provide us with a superfine UK fibre.
Throw in a cold front from Siberia and one of the hottest summers to date and even this hardy, British flock would question their surroundings.
We caught up with Bowmont sheep farmer, Lesley Prior on the complexities of working with animals, all the while reminded how special this flock of resilient sheep really are.
Thought you and your amazing customers might like an update on the farm. I wish you were all close enough to visit but instead, this will have to do!
It’s been a difficult year largely because of the weather. The Beast From The East hit us really hard in March and we were thigh deep in snow for about 2 weeks with the severe cold lasting for much longer. Fortunately we lamb later than usual so we just had adult sheep to care for but it was still tough enough. The water in the barn froze and carrying buckets to 500 animals 3 times a day is no joke. The snow was powder and blew in all the crevices. We had to shovel 10cm out of the middle of the barn each morning before we started anything else. We also ran out of our own silage and had to use some bought in hay which turned out to be bad news as it crumbled and got into the Merino wool as the sheep ate it and caused problems during processing this year – I know this means you’ve had to change tack and there is no jumper for 2018. The weather was a Beast in so many ways!
Spring finally arrived and in early April we went to Uruguay to the 10th World Merino Conference – a fantastic opportunity to meet and learn from the best growers in the world. 27 countries were there. We picked up lots of useful tips. No one was surprised to hear we were growing quality Merino in the UK. It grows successfully everywhere else so why not here!!
Then it was back to the farm and into lambing 2 days after we got back. All went very well apart from one of my favourite ewes who struggled and needed a caesarean at 4am one morning. Her ram lamb was huge and very poorly after a rough start in life. We had to tube feed him for 5 days until he was able to suckle from his mum. “Julius” is now amazing and will, I hope, be a star ram for me in the future. He met HRH The Prince of Wales when he visited Finisterre in July and behaved impeccably! He’s a very gentle boy, thanks perhaps to me being so hands on in the first few days. My vet, Claire comes every month for a routine clinic to check all is well, and always insists on seeing Julius. She’s extremely proud of him!
Summer was, as we all know, incredibly dry and hot. The sheep revelled in it. We were lucky - we didn’t run out of grass like some farms but we were relieved when the rain came in September. Right now we’ve more or less finished breeding. The rams have returned to their friends for a rest and the girls are now keeping their precious lambs safe on board until it all begins again in the Spring.
Love to all,
A note from Debbie Luffman, Finisterre Product Director
We’re bitterly disappointed not to have a Bowmont jumper this season, due to the processing issues, it’s our jewel in the crown of our knitwear collection, and a perfect example of slow fashion, limited flock = limited jumpers. No yarn = no jumpers! We know every aspect of the supply chain intimately, right back to the sheep, thanks to Lesley. Every season we learn something new about the wonders of wool and about unravelling it and transforming it into our product, and we’re delighted to have been able to use the fibre this year for our beautiful Bowmont wool melton shirt, let’s see what delights and challenges the future holds.
Images By Lesley Prior, Abbi Hughes and Yehya Al-Hafidh