Inspiring and Informative Training Weekend at Tewin Bury

Held at Tewin Bury Hotel Farm, where Harry Elsden (Hertford Flock) was host for the weekend, the 2nd National Training Weekend was an inspiring weekend packed with inter-active discussion and presentations from some of the most informed and knowledgeable members of our association.  In welcoming everyone, Harry gave an insight into his work at the hotel and how the Hampshire Down plays a role in the grazing of the hotel paddocks whilst producing meat for the menu.  Indeed Harry’s Hertford lamb was on the menu twice, and enthusiastically enjoyed by all.

Friday evening kicked off with an evening spent in the hotel with presentation from HDSBA Secretary Janet Hill running through and demonstrating how to use the Grassroots online registration system and keeping everyone informed of rules, deadlines and documentation to keep your Hampshire Down records in order.  It was an informative evening with everyone getting involved with laptops and ipads fired up.

On Saturday morning a jam-packed programme kicked off with HDSBA President Roy McFarlane welcoming all and setting the scene, outlining the importance of how we present our breed to the commercial world and the importance of raising our stockmanship levels to be serious contenders in the market for terminal sire breeds.


Jim Birkwood (Thorbeck) began the programme with an in-depth presentation on ram breeding and selection, starting with identifying your target market (commercial, fat, breeding) and moving on to the importance of correct conformation, ease of birth, growth rates, watching and weighing your lambs and trying to identify that special one who catches your eye every time.  “To be a good ram breeder” he said, “you have to be quite harsh” you are not only setting out to improve your flock but you are improving the whole Hampshire Down breed.  “For an animal to be kept and used as pedigree, everything has to be perfect, I cull hard, being prepared to perhaps only keep 5 out of 30 ram lambs for pedigree sales, if that is was is needed”.   Jim then expanded on the extra things you can do and use to go above and beyond, believing that the use of CT scanning opened his eyes and improved his flock, gaining the benefit of 99.9% accurate data upon which to base decisions.  When producing rams for the commercial market, then again, rams must be correct and reared in a similar way to that which will be expected of them when they start work on a commercial farm.  Commercial rams do not need the finer detail outlined in the breed standard, but they still must be correct in conformation and skin and be fit for purpose. 

Leading on nicely from Jim’s discussion, Judith Galbraith (Graylen Flock) picked up the importance of ‘fit for purpose’ rams and gave a talk and demonstration on how to do a ‘Ram MOT’.  A vital part of your annual health plan is to fully check, in plenty of time, that your stock rams are fit and fertile for their weeks of work.    10 weeks ahead of putting your rams out, they should be checked for feet, teeth, condition and testicles.  Fertility is obviously vital and Judith gave an interesting talk, discussing issues that might affect fertility and sperm production, most significantly changes in temperature and the role over-fatness plays in throwing the optimum temperature out of balance and therefore suppressing sperm production.


Judith, our ‘resident vet’ continued after lunch with veterinary lectures on scouring and most particularly coccidiosis and nematodirus.  And throughout the weekend, the demand on her expertise and knowledge was high  and impromptu discussions surfaced spontaneously on all things health and vet including a very interesting presentation on buying in stock and the importance of quarantine.


And then came another speaker with years of knowledge and experience. Jim Cresswell (Wattisfield Flock) spoke about establishing a dam line and ewe performance and how he monitors his ewes and what progeny they produce.  He will give a ewe several seasons before making a decision to cull, and will try with a number of different rams to see what knits and works.  His ewes are long and faithful workers, keeping many until they are 10 years old once he has identified the good breeders.  It is not always the best looking ewes that produce the best lambs, it is performance that counts.   When it comes to selling females, Jim emphasised the importance of only ever considering stepping up to this once you are established  “take your time to build up what you want, and don’t rush to sell until you are prepared to sell some of your very best”.

The last hour of the day was spent in a very lively question and answer session with the day’s speakers forming a panel to answer questions raised anonymously through questions in a box giving everyone a chance to ask what they might have considered too basic or trivial, but in fact everyone in the audience had been wanting to ask the same thing too.  It was fun and informative and an up-beat end to the day.

Taking advantage of a collective of breeders a stand-alone meeting was held in the evening as part of a consultation process to investigate the way forward for producing and selling more rams to the commercial market.  As the ideas evolve, details will be circulated.  Anyone who is interested and has not received the consultation document should contact the secretary.

Sunday morning kicked off with a ‘live to dead’ session with Janet Hill leading the demonstration on drawing lambs for slaughter, weighing and grading with the opportunity for everyone to get their hands on and begin to learn the feel for fatness.  Two carcasses of two different fat classes were hanging giving the opportunity to transpose what was felt to what it looked like on the hook. 


The weekend ended with Kevin and Alex McCarthy demonstrating how to prepare a lamb for ‘untrimmed’ classes, outlining what is and what is not allowed, and throughout the weekend ongoing tutoring of trimming techniques, including the new concept of a mini-trim, gave many of the younger members the opportunity of one-to-one teaching with Kevin the Master Dresser.


It is hard to imagine that very much more could have been crammed in to just one weekend, and all went away full of ideas and new knowledge. 



Farm Gates Open and ready to welcome in Ireland

The Irish Club Improving Sheep Profits Open Day on Saturday 14th April is set to be a major industry event and all are welcome. Leading up to this, many of the Irish breeders are staging an ‘Open Gate’ event which is an invitation for any breeders who would like to take the opportunity to visit and view some of the best Hampshire Down sheep in Ireland. See below participating breeders and map out a route and plan some visits ahead of the Open Day at Ballycreelly on Saturday.

The BALLYCREELLY flock currently have 40 breeding ewes producing pure breeds but would like to increase that number to 60. We have also been using Hampshire ewe lambs to produce Hamptex composites sired by Beltex and have had a very promising crop this year. Come and visit and enjoy The Craic.

Kevin McCarthy 07785 325 028

 Ballycreelly Ram Lambs

Ballycreelly Ram Lambs

The BALLYVESTER flock is one of the oldest flocks in Ireland, established in 1972. We aim to breed high quality sheep to be used in both pedigree and commercial flocks. We are very proud of our small flock and its achievements over the years. Which include, high placings in UK and Ireland Flock Competition, breed champion at the Northern Irish National show 2016 & 2017, Balmoral Show breed champion in 2017 along with champion pair of Spring lambs in 2017 & 2018.

Hannah Robinson on : 07892919648

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LOUGHAN MOSS, another one of the oldest established flocks in Ireland. Lambs have been continuously selected for correctness, carcass conformation and growth rates. The flock has bred breed champions at Royal Ulster, Royal Dublin, Royal Highland and The Royal (England). We are scrapie monitored and M.V. accredited and therefore stock are eligible for export to the E.U.  Jim Fletcher 02891872163 or 07875842433.

 Loughan Moss Marius

Loughan Moss Marius

The ASHLEY flock was established in 2005 and over the years we have tried to breed high quality breeding sheep for pedigree and commercial use, while trying to keep the breed character of the Hampshire Down but also modernising our flock, with more length and overall scale. This has been highlighted by our breeding being introduced to a number of flocks throughout Ireland and the UK. We have achieved great success with winning the Royal Ulster show in 2014, 2015 and 2016, as well as winning Best small flock in Ireland over a number of years.  Our greatest achievement was in 2016, when our flock was awarded overall Champion flock in Ireland and Overall Reserve Champion flock in the UK.

Allen McFadden on 07815045406

 Ashley Group of Three

Ashley Group of Three

The ELDRON Hampshire Downs, established in 1982, are bred for strength, length, and adherence to the Breed Standard.  With careful breeding, using the flocks long blood lines, our sheep consistently breed quality stock, suitable to be used for pedigree breeding or the meticulous commercial farmer.  We are very proud of our sheep and would love to show them off to you.  Annora Whitley on 00353 877413125.

 Eldron Ram Lamb

Eldron Ram Lamb




Would you like to improve commercial lamb value by £3 a head, and if you are a pedigree breeder, increase ram value by up to £400 a head?

Cafre’s Dr Eileen McCloskey will be discussing how to at a PROFIT FROM SHEEP FARMING open day to be staged at Mossbank Farm, Ballycreelly Road, Comber BT23 5PX on Saturday 14 April 13.00 to 17.00.

It’s all about performance recording, she says. “There’s nothing new about this tool however there is massive untapped potential for NI pedigree breeders and commercial producers to work together and use it to improve their flocks, and in turn enhance stock sales – the only element of their income they can truly influence.

“In fact as few as 5% of rams working in Northern Ireland flocks are performance recorded, consequently the sheep sector is missing out on over £5 million in improved lamb value.

“For pedigree breeders, rams with high EBVs can achieve between £300 to £400 premiums at ram sales, whilst those rams can leave higher value lambs - a £3 per lamb increase is often reported in trials, a figure worth over £800 over a ram’s working lifetime.”

Host farmer, Kevin McCarthy will discuss the gains made from performance recording his 50 ewe pedigree Hampshire Down flock for 30 years. It currently features within the breed’s top 10%.

“Performance recording is both permanent and cumulative,” he explains. “For example, my ram lambs born last year recorded a scan weight of 6.97kg, that’s 5.85kg heavier than in 2000. Half of this gain – 2.92kg will be passed on to his progeny consequently at £1.80 per kg, that extra gain could be worth as much as £5.27 per lamb. On the other hand, it’s not just about weight of lamb sold, this gain is expressed in terms of reduced days to slaughter weight.

The event will also feature the following presentations

Maximising returns from grass this season – monitoring growth, quality and utilisation: Afbi’s Dr Aurelie Aubry

Maximising farm labour efficiency including the use of adequate and safe handling facilities: Dr McCloskey

Improving efficiency with sheep EID technology: Dr McCloskey and TGM’s George Megarry

Meeting processors expectations: Dunbia’s George Williamson

Scanner, William Tait will demonstrate ultra sound scanning.

Furthur information from Kevin McCarthy on 07785 325028.

Please follow the link HERE to see the advert


Plans are now in place for the second National Training Weekend (20th – 22nd April). at TEWIN BURY FARM HOTEL, HERTFORDSHIRE AL6 0JB

Designed to offer something for everyone, there is a strong emphasis on discussion and sharing of knowledge with the aim to help new and novice breeders, whilst at the same time encouraging debate about the future of ram production and marketing for those at the professional end of the audience.  Experienced breeders should particularly look out for the Brainstorming Meeting later on Saturday afternoon where your thoughts will be welcome and your input valued.

The whole weekend will be an opportunity for new and novice breeders to ask anything they have ever wanted to know, in a friendly and welcoming environment.

Please click the links to view the full PROGRAMME  & download a BOOKING FORM


In what is seen as a progressive move for the breed, the Council of HDSBA have made the decision to move the venue for the National Show & Premier Sale (29th & 30th June) to Shrewsbury Livestock Market with auctioneers Halls.

Since the termination of the Royal Show at Stoneleigh, the National Show along with the  Premier Breeders’ Sale has been held at Stratford upon Avon under the expert services of Bletsoes Auctioneers.  Many successful years of showing and selling have been enjoyed there, but the Council of HDSBA has listened to members opinion and it became apparent that many would like to see this event move to a larger livestock centre, to accommodate the ever growing number of entries in both the show and sale. 

A number of alternative venues were considered before any decisions were made, and Shrewsbury came out as a high contender. The outcome of a meeting on location concluded that Shrewsbury had everything we could wish for in terms of location (close to the motorway network), infrastructure (catering and accommodation) and professional services.

The Council of HDSBA acknowledge the professional and friendly service given  by Bletsoes over the years, but now see this move to Shrewsbury as progression for the breed, keeping it at the forefront of the livestock community.

The format of the show and sale will remain largely the same, with entries and timings being as before and in the usual way, and HDSBA Council hope to receive the whole-hearted support of the members in making the inaugural Shrewsbury Show & Sale a huge success.

The market is located at Bowman Way, Battlefield, Shrewsbury SY4 3DR and more information can be found at

2017 AGM Weekend, Newmarket

by Barbara Adams

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The Annual General Meeting in the last weekend of October has changed enormously since the early days of our membership in 1986. In those far off days certainly it would be held in an hotel but staying overnight? gala dinner? My goodness, we were lucky if we got a cup of tea and a digestive!

How things have changed - and so much for the better. Every October we have the splendid opportunity to spend a weekend getting to see a different part of the UK, meet friends old and new and catch up with the latest Hamp news with everything beautifully organised for us.


And this year was no exception.  Newmarket in Suffolk was our destination, a place that I, for one, and I suspect quite a few others, knew little of apart from its association with the racing world, in a county that I have rarely visited. So, on a beautiful autumn day Mike and I, with Kay and Rob Vincent, set off from the West Country with the privilege of plenty of time to drive East and, for once, avoid all motorways. Yes, it took time but it was a glorious journey and when comparing notes after we arrived, hearing horror stories of traffic jams and accidents on various motorways, we felt very fortunate.

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Checking in to our hotel, The Rutland Arms, we were quickly greeting familiar faces though after the quirky twists and turns of corridors and stairs wondered if we would ever see them again. Then, for most, off to The Jockey Club for the business part of the weekend - the Annual General Meeting.  As the weekend has got longer, so the AGM has got shorter.  I can’t tell you about the meeting since, dear reader, I did not go. I used to, but now I don’t - a privilege of old age. Well, there needs to be some perks. The business side of things will be reported separately when the Minutes of the meeting are published.  

The Jockey club, where we all met for an informal dinner, unsurprisingly, has pictures of horses covering every wall, a collection we learned, worth £90 million which, as they have to stay on the walls, may be more of a liability than an asset. Interesting, though, to see some of the artists names, including probably the most famous of all horse painters, George Stubbs. After a convivial evening most, though not all, retired for an earlyish night before the rigours of the Saturday visits.


Saturday morning was bright, fresh and promising and the whole day did not disappoint. Everyone heeded their instructions and were well in time to board, or follow, a very smart double decker bus to our first destination. Dalham Hall Stud, part of the Darley Stud is owned by Sheik Mohammed Bin Al-Maktoum (the 7th richest man in the world, vice President and PM of the UAE and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai) and is utterly awesome - not a word I use lightly. We were made very welcome by head shepherd Dan Phipps, who, before taking us to see the flock of two thousand mules and mainly Texel tups, took us on a tour of the most immaculate stables I think I’m pretty sure in saying, most of us will ever see in our lives. Together with two lively chaps, all in their blue waistcoats and caps, they explained in fascinating and jaw dropping detail how the stud works.  Most of us were bemused trying to get to grips with the whole breeding scene there, where service by their top stallion Dubawi will set you back £250,000 a time.  And he works four times a day in the breeding season after which he’s packed off to Australia to ‘work’ there. 

I could write another page on our time there but must press on to our next visit. Hole Farm is home to the the St Paul Flock and the Middleditch family who welcomed us with a hot lunch and a tipple followed by the most important part of the day - seeing Hampshire Downs. Tractors and trailers were on hand to take the group to see the Poll Dorsets, their commercial flock, then back to the farmstead to inspect the Hamps and take part in the stock judging competition. A lot of interest there, probably because of the prizes on offer - several boxes of Maltesers.


The countryside, still bathed in autumn sunshine highlighting the changing colours of the trees, is truly beautiful and the architecture so distinctive that most people kept awake for the lovely drive back. Then into the gladrags for the Gala dinner back at the Club, with our new president, Roy McFarlane, in post. I don’t think I have ever seen roast beef and Yorkshire pudding presented and served so beautifully - and it tasted exquisite too. Our after dinner speaker was Charles Howard, general manager of the Jockey Club who in between giving us some background of the club told a scurrilous story or two. This was followed by the presentation of prizes for the flock competition and an auction of donated items, ably conducted by Tim Hunter, proceeds of which went to our Society apart from that from a ewe lamb, donated by the Middleditch family, which went to the Alzheimer’s Society.


After a thoroughly good day we retired to our hotel rooms knowing that we had an extra hour in bed - or in my case, an extra hour in my Sunday.  Mike and I had the intention of being out early to see the horses being  exercised out on the gallops. We had heard that on Saturday morning there had been over three hundred.  We saw one. What a disappointment - they don’t often go out on a Sunday we were told too late. We hope one day to return but will choose a Wednesday or a Saturday to do so.


And so to the last visit - Harry Elsden’s Hertford Flock 40 minutes away at Tewin Bury Farm Hotel, a Country House Hotel where Harry keeps his flock which not only supplies 5 lambs a week to the hotel restaurant but also acts as a visitor attraction. A tractor and trailer tour around the hotel farm took in the opportunity to see Harry’s Hamps together with his commercial flock.  Using Beltex and continental rams to complement the earlier finishing Hamp cross lambs, Harry is able to extend the season of home grown lamb for the menu. Almost half of the AGM attendees stayed on for this extra visit and yet more hospitality before making their way home to the corners of the country and continent.

So, another interesting and enjoyable AGM weekend (though surely it was only about six months since the last one?). The Middleditch family pulled out all the stops and put together one of the most memorable AGM weekends, and for this, enormous thanks and gratitude are due. We were delighted to see how many young and enthusiastic members we have these days and hope as many as possible will make it to Newquay in 2018.



Want to know more about breeding in general and performance recording in  particular? Join us at this year’s Performance Recording Workshop at The Marriot Hotel, Edinburgh, EH12 8NF on Saturday 7th October starting at 10am. (close to the airport for anyone wishing to fly in).

We have invited some great speakers to join us to discuss genetics and how we can use them to improve our flocks and to talk about what we should aim to produce to satisfy commercial and processor needs.

Dr Jo Connington, a leading livestock geneticist from the Roslin Institute

Sam Boon and Emma Steele from AHDB

Emily Grant Knowledge Transfer Specialist from Quality Meat Scotland

In addition to presentations from our speakers, there will be a Question Time session where you can put your questions to them and in the afternoon a practical sessions for both novice and experienced breeders.

Lunch is included and the total cost will be £15/delegate

Places are limited so book yours quickly! To book your place, please email Janet


A further opportunity to meet, talk and learn is on the 17th November when we will be holding a Q and A session after the first afternoon of the Sheepbreeders Roundtable . For more information about the conference:- Book your place and then let us know that you want to join our HDBSA session.