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Lambing starts very soon.

We are in Uruguay at the 10th World Merino Conference from 5th to 16th April, and then we finish shearing on the 18th and lambing starts on the 21st so will be pretty hectic!! Becky and I have just put up the lambing pens. Always makes us think “Crikey – here we go!” We’ve also just gone through the pregnant sheep again today and checked they are in good enough body condition. We want them fit not fat.

The vet is coming next week to do a metabolic profile blood test on about half of them just to check their nutrition and make sure we are doing absolutely everything we can to keep them just right before they lamb. It will assess levels of crucial nutrients and allow us a bit of time to correct anything that isn’t quite right. Not something most farmers would do but for us it’s something we want to do.

Bye for now,


A thread of emails and exchanging of news between Finisterre Product Director, Debbie Luffman, Merino sheep farmer, Lesley Prior and others.


13th December 2017

Morning both,

Not sure if I told you Debbie (told Tom at the Exeter shop) but we’ve just been accepted by the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders as their first overseas member. We had the sheep assessed and classed in June by one of their top stud breeders and we passed! We will, in the new year, be entitled to be on their list of studs with all particulars recorded. Very proud!!

We’ve been invited to go to Uruguay with their Trade Mission in early April so we’re going! Amazing. Finally getting there after 12 years of hard work.

Just finished breeding today. As soon as the Beeb have gone we will be pulling out the rams from the pens and getting everything back to normal. Lambing will start around 21st April for about 3 weeks. First week should be manic by the look of it! Loads of first timers who can be tricky. Really looking forward to getting my shirts and jumpers. Can’t wait to see this shirt!

Love to you both,



Hi Lesley,

Yes, you told me about the Australian Association membership at Exeter opening, amazing, well done, yet another achievement, it’s been a big year for you!

Hope to see you soon, in January when you’re not too busy maybe?

Thanks Lesley,

Debs x


26th February 2018

Just got round to listening to the BBC radio 4 interview
LOVE IT – mega proud! Great work guys.



Thanks Tom,

Yep went pretty well. And Mike enjoyed it too – first time he’d ever done anything like this.

Got BBC radio 4 coming again tomorrow to record an interview for their flagship environmental programme “Costing The Earth”? They are focusing on the Microplastics issue and looking at wool as the alternative in clothing.

Cold here but no snow yet. Animals snug inside the barn. Shearing late next week because it should have warmed up by then – I hope! I’m wearing as much wool as my sheep so I’m warm. The poor birds. We’re feeding them like it’s going out of fashion. Some extra and unusual types coming so must be moving west to avoid the weather. 

Debs – we’re away at beginning of April (for 2 weeks after Easter) going to Uruguay with the Australians for the 10th World Merino Conference in Montevideo! Lambing when we come back starting somewhere around 21st April. We shall be here from then on. Did I send you this pic? At Clarence House 2 weeks ago for a CFW meeting with Prince of Wales! My shrug is 100% Superfine. Beautiful. Mercerised so slightly shiny.


Hi Lesley,

Hope you are can stay cosy this week, can’t believe it’s going to be March and potentially snowing, we launch our spring range this week, but not ideal, good job our hardy customer wears shorts all year!

Shall we put something in the diary for the end of April? How about 25th or 26th April? When do you think you will have all the clip sheared and baled ready for Gledhills this year? Do you have an approx. weight in mind?

Great CFW pic by the way!

Thanks Lesley, Keep calm and wear merino!

Debs x

5th March 2018

Hi Lesley,

Hope you are well and that you, the farm and sheep have thawed out!

As I mentioned we are working with the European outdoor group to develop a funded wool stream research project to study the effects of wool on the marine environment and we would love to use Bowmont project as the fibre study, as we can control all aspects of the supply chain.

This is all in its infant stages right now, but I wondered whether you would be open to the idea of Sophie Mather from Biov8tion joining us at the farm next Wednesday? We will be working with Sophie on the study and she is dying to meet you and see the sheep. Some information about who she is and what she does here.

Let me know your thoughts.

How did it go by the way at the CFW event last week, did you get there despite the snow?

Thanks Lesley,



Hi Debs,

Yes of course. Very happy to meet Sophie. Bring wellies and a warm coat!
Sounds like an exciting project.

BBC were here last Tuesday recording for “Costing The Earth” on 27th March, Radio 4. I think it should be a very interesting programme.

Yes, we’ve thawed out but it has been an exhausting few days. We have no lambs at the moment. We don’t start until 21st April so we are VERY lucky. The prospect of being in our sheds in -13C and lambing was not good. The sheep were absolutely fine. Warm in their wool and good deep straw beds.

Our biggest problem was snow INSIDE the barn (forced through the ventilation slits) and completely frozen water. We were watering all the sheep and goats with buckets and a hose pipe for 3 days. Took 90 minutes three times each day. Nearly killed us! On top of all the feeding etc. And everything was extra hungry because of the cold.

Our neighbours dug down the lane to us on Saturday morning. Took them 3 hours to get a mile. WE were going to do it Sunday but they very kindly did it for us. Fortunately we were well prepared with generator, food, wood and plenty of animal food of course.

Glad it’s more or less over. Still lots of drifts here but roads passable. Not so further north of us.

See you Wednesday next week.

Lesley X

15th March 2018

Good morning,

A quick note to thank you both for extending an invite to me yesterday. So, refreshing and very exciting to discuss how we could move forwards with regard to the Bowmont project.

Thank you for your hospitality Lesley and sharing your energy and expertise so openly.

I will work on that project ‘1-pager’ in the next week or so before we all head off around the globe and look forward to moving this funding proposal forwards.

Kind regards,



Hello Both, 

I look forward to hearing more about it. Sounds very exciting. Would be good to see such relative small fry as us contributing something of tremendous value to much bigger players in the wool game. Was good to see you all – if exhausting – and I didn’t have your long drives at both ends!

I have a visit from the Royal Agricultural University Animal Welfare team tomorrow looking at how we do things here and what lessons can be learned. I spoke at a DEFRA conference there last month and RAUC asked to visit so tomorrow is the day. I seem to be doing quite a bit on sheep welfare lately what with this and the Bristol Uni project on Positive Welfare.

It’s all part of very overdue recognition that so many welfare schemes, or welfare elements in wider schemes such as Organic certification, Responsible Wool Standard etc are just based on guesswork and not real scientific understanding of positive welfare. Most people know what sheep NEED to stay alive and keep healthy, but very few people understand what a sheep WANTS to make life good for it.

That is the real focus of the projects I’m involved in. As I was saying to you Sophie, it’s glaringly obvious that in most cases, what the sheep wants is also good for the environment so the excitement growing around this approach is palpable.

Exciting though it is I shall be glad when the weekend comes although it sounds as though we are in for another dump of snow!!

Best wishes,


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