Roberts Family

Nothing can beat the maternal attributes and efficiency of the Lleyn ewe for the Roberts family, who have been breeding Lleyn sheep for over 50 years.

Based in Pwllheli, North Wales, lies the Gwyndy flock which was founded in 1972 and now managed by Bryn Roberts, alongside wife Gwenllian and mother, Gwenda.

“In 1972 my father and grandfather travelled to Southern Ireland, to buy a Roscommon ram with the aim of improving conformation on the ewes. Following that, he ended up breeding what is now known as the Lleyn ewe, as did many of the surrounding farmers in the area,” commented Bryn.

“In the late 1960’s, 10 farmers from the Lleyn peninsula gathered alongside three Ministry Officials - H.E. Roberts, Moses Griffith and Keith Ellis,  to get the breed recognised, with our family being one of the first within the breed,” he said.

The closed flock now runs some 150 ewes, with the family retaining around 40 replacement ewe lambs each year.

Rams head out with ewes in September, with lambing kicking off in the beginning of February.

“Everything is lambed indoors, and we try to bring them in around Christmas time, weather dependant,” stated Gwenllian.

Ewes are fed a silage ration, with concentrates being offered to twin and triplet-bearing ewes around six weeks pre-lambing. Once lambed, ewes and lambs are kept inside for 24 hours before then being moved back out to grass.

“Any triplet lambs get lifted at birth, but we prefer to lift a female lamb if we can as there is a higher chance of her being retained in the flock with the hope she is as prolific as her mother,” explained Bryn.

Weaning takes place in June, where stock is then selected to either be retained for breeding, sold as pedigree stock through society sales or fattened for the live ring.

“We aim to have all the fat lambs away by the end of June, sold through the liveweight market from 37kg upwards. Tup lambs are finished on grass alone, with only a small few selecting for breeding,” said Gwenllian.

“In regard to our ewe lambs, we only retain females off our top performing ewes as we want to retain that quality within the flock. We then look for lambs that retain the breed characteristic, which make them suitable to be sold for breeding,” she continued.

The Roberts are advocates of monitoring daily live weight gain (DLWG) in their lambs and make sure that everything gets weighed each time they are handled.

“If DLWG is poor or slows down, the lamb will be culled. If the stock are looked after, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be growing so we really like to monitor the stock and make sure they are performing as they should,” stated Bryn.

“In regard to culling, we are not as harsh with older ewes and have a few 7-year-olds here. However, anything with regular health problems gets culled as we both work full time and don’t have the time to be interfering with ewes who are repeatedly producing problems for us.”

The Roberts family attend Exeter and Ruthin society sales each year with their ewe lambs and yearling ewes.

“We are known for our ewe lambs and don’t tend to sell a lot of yearling ewes, but this year we decided to test the market and bring some extra yearling ewes to the sale. We were delighted with the trade of £200/head received for our yearlings at Exeter last year. Going forward, we will focus on increasing yearling ewe sale numbers for society sales later this year,” Bryn commented.

“We are also looking to produce a few more rams to be sold through society sales or privately too. We also would like our name known for good rams as well as our females – so that is the long-term goal,” added Gwenllian.

To produce quality stock, the Roberts have a strict selection policy when it comes to buying in a new stock ram for their flock.

“We look for a striking head - something that stands out. Stock must have black dots on the ears and no brown legs as this will pass onto progeny. We like to have a balance between the old traditional Lleyn, but also looking for size and a tight skin, as well as overall conformation of the ram,” explained Bryn.

In years gone by, there have been a few stock rams which have made their mark on the Gwyndy flock.

“We bought a ram off Dylan Jones, which was purchased at Ruthin and made a huge difference to our females. The breed is constantly changing, and sheep are bigger than they used to be. We were looking for a ram that put a bit of size into the flock which was exactly what this ram introduced – he left us some lovely females,” Bryn added.

Looking to the future, the Roberts are hopeful that the Lleyn will retain a solid place within the sheep industry.

“We are focussing our attention on producing stock for the pedigree market, as we are a small flock, and we want to keep pushing the breed forward. We very much admire the likes of Wynne Davies, Bronallt, for consistently producing top quality stock each year. He has been a stalwart within the breed for as long as we can remember and has continued to push the breed in a positive direction,” explained Bryn.

“The Lleyn ewe has her place within the commercial market as well as the pedigree. There is a shift, and farmers want a more sustainable and efficient ewe, which is exactly what the Lleyn is all about. They have always worked for us and continue to be ultimate maternal ewe.”