Back in 1972 Alun Wynne Davies and his father decided to run a small Lleyn flock alongside their dairy herd. At the time the Lleyn breed was largely restricted to its home ground of North West Wales.
Now, over 35 years later, that original flock has grown to some 400 ewes and the Lleyn is a nationally known and respected breed. Wynne, of Bronallt, Morfa Nefyn, Gwynedd, has played a full part in the development of the breed both on his own farm and in supporting breed through a string of shows and at Lleyn Sheep Society sales.
The establishment of the family's original flock was largely a case of taking a breed that suited local conditions and was easy to source. They also saw the Lleyn as having real commercial potential.
The dairy herd has now long gone, but the Lleyn flock remains and will play a key, and probably a growing, part in the farm system for the foreseeable future.
The modern farm covers 220 acres originally made up of five smallholdings, with all the land adjoining or close to Bronallt. The farm lies in the Lleyn Peninsula , just a mile from the coast making for a mild climate but exposed to winds from the North and West.
Apart from 25 acres of a wetland SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) the farm is mostly long term grass leys but with about 20 to 25 acres of cereals grown for home feeding. These are barley for the cattle and oats for the sheep. Â Potentially the farm offers virtually year round grass growth aided by drainage of much of the land over the years.
The core business is the production of pure bred breeding sheep for commercial sheep producers. At present the farm carries about 700 breeding females; just over 100 tup lambs being reared for sale as shearling rams; and 20 stock rams. Â These are complemented by bought in beef stores, largely continental crosses, normally finished over about a six month period. Cattle numbers vary widely over the year ranging between about 50 and 80 head at any one time. Â While the type has developed over the years, the Lleyn remains at the heart of the sheep enterprise with the present flock totalling about 400 head.
"The Lleyn was originally a good sized animal, but lack of interest and a decline in breeder numbers allowed it to become the relatively small type of animal seen in the late 1960s. However the breed retained its high lambing percentages, ease of lambing and good mothering ability.
"Having developed in this area, it was well suited to our conditions. Virtually all the female bloodlines in our modern flock go back to the original flock.
"Over the years the issues of size and limited genetics have been dealt with and the Lleyn is a medium sized ewe that consistently gives us 200 per cent lambs reared over ewes tupped. The size, length, and general conformation of the lambs have also improved. We are selling pure Lleyn tup lambs at 40 to 45kg liveweight and could take them heavier if the market required.
"The sheep stay outside all year round receiving just a little supplementary feeding of cereals and perhaps a little hay before lambing. The Lleyn ewes lamb in February, ewe lambs lamb a little later in April.
"We find that the Lleyn is increasingly popular among farmers who have been running Mule flocks as it is possible to run three Lleyns in place of two Mules. Many farmers who have relied on buying in their commercial breeding ewes, such as Mules, are also looking to pure bred commercial ewes so that they can breed their own replacements," he said.
Over the years the Davies family have worked hard showing their Lleyns at national, county and local shows. For many years they went to over 30 summer shows, now cut back to just four major events - Royal, Royal Welsh, Anglesey, Denbigh and Flint ; Merioneth - plus the local Nefyn Show and, a family favourite, the Conway Valley 's Eglwysbach Show.
Among the string of awards, Wynne especially treasures his interbreed trophies from Anglesey and Denbigh and Flint Shows. Apart from showing he is regularly called on to judge Lleyn classes, including those at last year's Royal Highland Show. He also tries to support every Lleyn Sheep Society breed sale including those as far afield as Exeter and Perth.
It is hardly surprising that Wynne is looking increasingly towards an easy to manage sheep system concentrating on the Lleyn - a breed he sees as ideal for this type of system.