The Jenkinson family, Woodfoot, Cumbria, Flock 1219

Producing top quality stock is very much a family affair for the Jenkinson’s from Woodfoot, Cumbria, who are firm believers that the Lleyn ticks all the boxes.

The farm is home to a flock of 300 pure Lleyns plus followers – all of which operate under the Woodfoot prefix. In conjunction with Woodfoot, the Jenkinson’s have another family farm which runs a flock of Swaledale ewes and a commercial flock of Lleyns.

Having worked with the breed all his days, the Lleyn continues to prove to be the best option for Matt: “The Lleyn ticks all the boxes for us. All our sheep are naturally finished, reared at 1000ft and hardy. The lambs are vigorous – they get up and get on with it and the ewe has a good bag on her. We find it’s a less laborious job farming Lleyns and that should be the expectation with your sheep,” said Matt.
When it comes to sorting sheep into their groups for tupping, only the less productive ewes are selected to be crossed to a terminal sire for fat lamb production.

“Regarding our older ewes, we draft them out and cross them to a Suffolk tup to produce breeding females and fat lambs as there seems to be a huge market for them. The ewes themselves aren’t of poor quality, they’re just less productive and will still do a good job rearing
It’s not just ewe quality that Matt looks for; his tups also must be of a high standard: “I like a tup with plenty width, good stretch and skin is very important. I don’t like pink on the nose, and he must have a good mouth too as it is a grass-based system that we run here.”

Tups head out with ewes late September and scanning takes place on Christmas eve, with Lleyn ewes continually scanning at 190-200%, which ranges from yearlings right the way through to nine-shear ewes. Once scanning is out the way, the flock are split into groups according to litter size, with singles-bearing ewes staying outside up until a few days until they are due. The rest of the flock are brought inside and housed from the end of January and are fed home-grown silage.

“We don’t feed any concentrates to the ewes, just round bales of silage. The drier and younger silage is proving better forage for the sheep, and we feed that from the 1st of February onwards for the twin and triplet-bearing ewes inside. In the last two weeks of gestation, we start feeding up to a pound per day of 18% concentrate feeding, which helps with colostrum quality,” Matt said.

The bulk of lambing at Woodfoot takes place from the end of February through into the first two weeks of March.
“The breed suits our need for a tight lambing pattern as they sync naturally together in bulk. With the aim to increase flock numbers, we are beginning to note down which ewes are performing better year on year. This determines whether she will be kept pure or crossed to a terminal sire,” stated Matt.

All established lambs receive their first worming dose in the second week of April, depending on the Nematodiris risk at the time. Woodfoot also operates a rotational grazing method, which utilises the whole farm and allow the sheep to benefit from regular pasture changes.
Lambs are then given a white wormer and ewes are dosed with vitamin/mineral drench when they are brought in for shearing at the beginning of June.

Weaning takes place in the last week of July and into the first week of August, with Matt aiming to wean and sell 75-80% of wether lambs fat straight off their mothers and finished on grass alone. Matt aims to sell 100-150 shearling ewes per year with the rest remaining at Woodfoot as replacements. Potential breeding stock are pulled off at weaning and kept in their own management group through until shearling age. All breeding stock are wintered outside and not given any special treatment, which Matt believes adds to the hardiness
and promotes what the Jenkinson’s aim to produce.

“I prefer to be left with 5 or 6 of the strongest tups on offer from the farm for society sales. The beauty of the Lleyn is that commercial farmers can get a good tup for £600, and it will do the job without fault,” he explained.
And the proof is in the pudding, with Woodfoot tups averaging £1200 for all sold in 2023 and the majority of pure Lleyn prime lambs grading deadweight as U3L and R3L, with an average weight of 40-42kg liveweight – all reared off grass alone.

The Jenkinson’s have also found success at the Carlisle society sale, in September, in previous years.
“It’s pleasing to consistently been in the top end of sale averages yearly,” stated Matt.

Commenting on the future of the Lleyn amongst a competitive female market, Matt concluded: “There are a lot of uncertainties within British farming and what schemes to go into and how famers manage stock. The only constant I know that will help with those uncertainties is the
breed of sheep I have. The Lleyn is the option in terms of hardiness, longevity, and forage conversion – she can’t be beat. She optimises the low input and high output system that everyone is chasing.

“There is no need to rely on a terminal sire for prime lamb production – our first 120 lambs which were sold averaged 19.7kg deadweight and were all pure Lleyns. The Lleyn is that good at producing not only a pure lamb but also a prime lamb, and breeders can target both commercial and pedigree markets. It is the breed that you can consistently rely on.”

Written by Kathryn Dick