Lambing has officially begun at New Warlands Farm in County Durham, with the welcome arrival of the first new members of the flock.

The first lamb was born as the sun finally emerged at the start of May, and farmer Dave Wilde has his fingers crossed that the warm weather stays. 

Dave said: “I actually delay breeding by a month in the hope that I miss the cooler, wetter spring weather. That way we don’t need to have any barns, enabling us to lamb outside as nature intended.

The grass is growing and it’s finally warmer, which is such a relief as farmers across Britain have been really struggling with the never-ending wet weather this year.

The flock on New Warlands Farm is primarily made up of Shetland sheep, a native breed that was previously considered at risk by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust but has seen a recent resurgence due to small holdings rearing new flocks. 

“There’s some Shetland sheep crosses as well,” Dave explained, “Crossing with a traditionally larger breed such as a Cheviot, which are native to Northumberland, results in bigger, more commercially viable lambs, whilst still maintaining that hardy, old fashioned Shetland quality.”

Dave added:

Lambing’s been very successful. We’ve had one set of triplets which is unusual for a primitive breed, and we’re only at the very beginning so there’s four ewes given birth so far, and every day there’s a few more.

Dave estimates around twenty more ewes are due to give birth, which will further add to the flock and play an important role in the development of New Warlands Farm. 

The breed is dual purpose, so can be utilised for both wool and meat but, in keeping with the New Warlands’ commitment to positively impacting the environment, will also help prepare the land for more wildlife and biodiversity.

Dave said:

We’re using the sheep for the first phase of the wildflower meadow creation, they’re on the field to eat the grass short so we can get down almost to the soil, we can then overseed with wildflowers to start creating the wildlife habitat.

He added: “If you were to just leave the grass as it is and throw the seed on it, it wouldn’t make proper connection with the soil.” 

The sheep will also help elsewhere by grazing on existing Northumberland Wildlife Trust nature reserves in autumn.

“They’ll go on to wildflower sites that are established and keep the brambles, brush, and reed canary grass at manageable levels, so the wildflowers aren’t shaded out by the bigger stuff.”

This lambing season is just the beginning, as Dave also has plans to introduce other rare breeds of sheep to the farm, including Teeswater sheep which are on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust’s critical list.

Mayfield farm in Wolsingham, County Durham, has one of the biggest Teeswater flocks in the world, and owners Gerard and Joanne Te Lintelo have kindly donated six to the North East Autism Society. 

By breeding Teeswater sheep, New Warlands will boost flock numbers and keep another valuable breed from Britain’s rich farming heritage alive.