From New Zealand to Co Down, Northern Ireland, one man has tried many a breed but has ended up with 100 pure bred Lleyn ewes and 25 ewe lambs. Malcolm Fraser farms 30 acres plus 12 acres in Conacre in Moneyrea, near Newtownards, Co. Down.
Son of a sheep farmer, Malcolm was born and reared in New Zealand on a farm carrying 500 Romney ewes. With a passion for sheep shearing behind him, Malcolm left New Zealand in 1961 and after a short stay in Australia, landed in Ireland in 1964.
He took up a post as Shepherd of 900 Scottish Blackface ewes for Langford Lodge near Lough Neagh. After shepherding for nine years Malcolm moved on, and even ended up running his own chip van, but in 1990 farming called him back.
Malcolm bought 30 acres in Monyrea. In 1995 the easier care traits of his New Zealand upbringing came to the forefront and, after some research, Lleyn seemed to fit the bill. His first purchase, 6 ewe lambs from Fiona and Roly Cunningham, produced 6 lambs. However, the following year as hoggets these same six sheep proved themselves by producing 16 lambs.
Satisfied that the Lleyn was the ewe of the future, Malcolm went to Carlisle in 1997 and brought home 15 more ewe lambs. From these two purchases Malcolm has increased his numbers to 100 ewes and 25 ewe lambs. The ewes are bred pure while the ewe lambs are being crossed with either Charollais or Shropshire rams, emphasising the ability of the Lleyn ewe to perform well when crossed with any other terminal sire.
The ewes are housed six weeks prior to lambing and are fed round bale silage plus meal. Malcolm lambs his ewes in mid March, and the ewe lambs follow in mid April. Lambing down at near 200%, Malcolm finds that the Lleyn ewe has no problem rearing her lambs. Triplets used to have one lamb taken off and reared artificially but now the lambs are left on and reared successfully.
With over 10 years of experience with Lleyn sheep, Malcolm believes Lleyn show all the necessary traits of an easier care ewe, namely their ease of management, great lambing percentage, good feet, and docile temperament.
Malcolm has sold ewe lambs, hoggets and aged ewes to farmers across Northern Ireland. Some became foundation stock for new Lleyn flocks and others went to commercial flocks. Many of these buyers have come back year after year. Malcolm describes himself as a hobby farmer, but looking at the sheep on my visit to his farm, any full time farmer would be proud to have them as part of his flock.