The Modern Terminal Sire
Hampshire Down flocks were established more than 150 years ago. The breed originated from a three-way cross – Wiltshire Horn, Berkshire Knot and Southdown. These flocks were recognised as vital to maintaining fertility on thin downland soils in Wiltshire, Hampshire and Berkshire.
Pure Hampshire Down flocks proliferated across the whole of the South of England. Sales were staged at Wilton, Overton, Weyhill and other fairs with up to 20,000 head at each one.
A burgeoning export trade for pure Hampshire Downs was also evolved to the major sheep producing countries.
The breed has developed as a terminal sire over the last 50 years. Hampshire Down sired lambs are early to mature with the ability to reach target finishing weight off forage and grade within the specification.
Hampshire Down breeders have over the last 15 years have carefully recorded and selected for modern performance traits in muscling, conformation, killing out percentage, and in particular for reduced back fat. At the same time, they have retained and enhanced the breeds native characteristics to achieve a blend of genetics which meet the modern market requirements and hardiness which means the lambs thrive in the extremes of climate.
Whilst retaining those native characteristics, thanks to ongoing genetic improvements in breeding selection, today’s modern Hampshire Down is also longer, it has a larger carcase, and leaves lambs consistently demonstrating higher growth rates with leaner conformation together with more measurable muscle.
Lamb growth rate is the key driver of performance on any commercial sheep enterprise. Monitoring the growth rate is important to all lambs sired by Hampshire Down rams. Hampshire Down cross lambs demonstrate incredible growth which in turn reduces costs and improves the overall profitability of the flock.
These native traits mean lambs are born with a good coat of wool and are quick to start suckling, making their survival chances much better than some other breeds. The main thing is having a lamb which gets up and lives with minimal assistance. The quicker a lamb sucks, the quicker it starts growing.
Improved carcass weights, coupled with fast growth also make the breed the ideal cross for some of the breeds now becoming popular as females. When crossed onto a Lleyn ewe for example, the Hampshire Down improves finishing times of prime lambs considerably.