Chris and Alison Crudge (Flock 1265) are active members of the West Country Lleyn Sheep Breeders Club. They have 325 ewes (all MV accredited) run as 2 separate flocks. Almost all are pure registered Lleyn, although a few of their original cross-breds are still hanging on. The best 180 Lleyn are bred pure and the rest go to a Charollais or Texel ram. 125-150 ewe lambs are run on over the winter.
Chris and Alison were both brought up in farming families. In the 1980s, Chris was working fulltime on a 600 acre beef and sheep farm while Alison was involved in milk recording and relief milking. In 1990 they bought a bungalow with 28 acres and managed to supplement this with 150 additional rented acres, all in grass. Luckily, most is linked to their original land and even the detached 35 acres is only Â½ mile away, easily walkable. The land ranges from 600-750 ft and is well drained, ideal for sheep.
Before 2000, the Crudges had mostly North Country Mules which they crossed with Texel. Retaining their ewe lambs and putting them again to the Texel gave excellent carcases but the lambing percentage was getting lower and lower. They desperately didnâ€™t want to go back to buying in ewes on an annual basis, being worried about the risk of disease.
Having heard about Lleyn ewes, Chris and Alison went to the Exeter Society Sale in 2000 and bought 10 2-tooths and 4 ewe lambs. These and further purchases were made from Flocks 419, 450, 838 and 964, all of which were the stockier type of Lleyn, typical of the breed, and which they prefer. An early purchase from another breeder gave a coarser, taller type of lamb, which they found didnâ€™t carry so much condition and which they weeded out.
Chris and Alison explain that â€˜We work together on the sheep but, as a lot of Chrisâ€™s time is taken up working for a contractor, the sheep have, to some extent, to fit in with the time available. Needing relatively little care, the Lleyn are ideal. They also have plenty of lambs at a good weight and they donâ€™t eat so much, so we can keep a few more; and the most important plus for us is that we can have a closed flock. All in all, since we found out about Lleyn, we havenâ€™t looked backâ€™.
Lambing is in mid March. The ewes are fed round bale silage from the end of November and are housed in pens of 50-60 sometime around 5th-10th January after scanning (usually between 180 and190%) and when the ground has got too wet (or is covered in snow, as this year). Again, round bale silage is fed and this is supplemented with cake 3 weeks before lambing. Ewes scanned with triplets, or any ewes that need a bit extra, are fed 4-5 weeks before. â€˜Mid March lambing means that there is enough grass at turnout so we donâ€™t have to feed concentratesâ€™ said Chris.
Ewe lambs are grown on for use as replacements or for sale as 2-tooths, mostly at the Exeter Society Sale. Fat lambs are sold via Sedgmoor or South Molton markets. Depending on the grass situation, Chris and Alison try to finish all lambs but, if necessary, some are sold as stores.