There are about 1000 breeding sheep on the farm, largely Coopworths and Shedders. Both were chosen for their hardiness, good feet and ease of lambing. Coopworths were developed in New Zealand to increase lambing percentages.
The ewes lamb easily and very few have to be assisted. They are excellent mothers with good milk production. They lamb in April, giving a crop of lambs that are ready for market from October onwards. The ewes are kept for about 7-8 years and produce lambs once a year. Gestation period is 5 months, so the lambs are born just in time for spring when there is plenty of food for them.
The sheep are bred primarily for meat, the wool is a by-product and is of a quality that can be used for carpets. Some sheep are wool-shedders whose fleece comes off naturally in the spring, leaving a short hair coat. The fleece then grows again in the autumn to offer protection in the winter months. The economic advantages of wool-shedders are very clear.
The natural life expectancy of sheep is 10-12 years, but they can live to be as old as 20. Their front teeth gradually deteriorate with age, making it harder for them to feed and hindering their health and productivity.