Llandovery Whiteface Hill Sheep

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Other common names: Dafad Gwyn Mynydd Llanymddyfri

The basics:
The Llandovery Whiteface Hill Sheep is a medium-sized, hardy, dual-purpose white breed developed on the hills of South-West Wales and centred on the market town of Llandovery. It is classed as a hill and mountain sheep with over a hundred years of history in its native region.

The Llandovery Whiteface Hill Sheep society was established in 1998 where the breed farmers came together with the express intention of improving and promoting the breed. They were so successful that the annual Llandovery sheep sale now has a separate Llandovery Whiteface Hill Sheep sale.

They are used either as hill sheep for low-maintenance farming or for breeding-up in lowland systems. In lowland management they are often crossed with Blue Faced Leicester rams to produce Mules (though they are not yet recognized within the Welsh Mule standard).

The ewes make excellent mothers and they have a twinning percentage of over 150% (higher under lowland management). As the conformation of this breed is good to begin with and they are hardy there is considerable interest in crossing them with Welsh Mountain sheep to breed larger lambs.

Appearance / health:
The base colour is white and the fleece can be quite long. The fibre is fine and even finer if crossed with a Bluefaced Leicester. They have a very square conformation when looked at head on and the body is long and very good for meat. The head is a little small when compared to the body, with a square and robust shape and erect ears. Legs are bare beneath the hocks and pure white, like the face.

They are generally a low-maintenance breed requiring minimal husbandry. But like all sheep they need hoof trimming on richer pastures. On their native upland pastures foot rot is rare and trimming is required only once a year. They can be left outside all year and as long as there is sufficient fodder they will not wander. They are very good and protective mothers and on average produce a 160% lambing rate in a season (though this an rise to 175% on lowland farms).

Being a hardy breed, Llandovery Whiteface Hill Sheep are quite healthy under most conditions. But in large flocks they are prone to the viral and parasitic diseases that affect all sheep. Soremouth (orf) is not uncommon, but can be treated by vaccination. Lambs are prone to ringworm and intestinal parasites, so a worming regimen is always recommended. This breed has been selectively bred to exclude scrapie (ovine dementia) from the flock.

Behavior / temperament:
On uplands farms with minimal management they tend to be more skittish. But under lowland management Llandovery Whiteface Hill Sheep are a calm breed with quite high intelligence. They are easy to train, which makes them easy to herd or to bring indoors with the enticement of food. Because of their trainability they excellent in a mixed flock for leading other sheep. Llandovery Whiteface Hill Sheep will typically ignore dogs, unless they have lambs with them where they may attack. They also get used to humans very readily and are not particularly nervous in the presence of people. This makes them a good choice for sites that have public access.

As a domestic animal, the Llandovery Whiteface Hill Sheep's intelligence and calm nature makes it an excellent pet or for use for small-scale rearing, particularly if they have been bottle-fed. But they are flock animals, so you need to keep several together for their sense of security.

Housing / diet:
Being a hardy hill sheep the Llandovery Whiteface Hill Sheep can be kept outside all year round and as long as they have sufficient fodder they will thrive even in the harshest weathers. Under lowland management sheep are often brought indoors over winter. This partly protects pastureland, improving spring growth, but it is also done to reduce stress on the sheep which are often heavily pregnant to give spring lambs during the coldest of the winters. If you are overwintering sheep indoors they need plenty of fodder and water, dry bedding (typically straw or dry bracken) an they need lots of ventilation. Air must be allowed to move freely in any housing suitable for sheep, as moisture and poor air conditions lead to the sheep’s poor health (respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia are not uncommon).

The lambs start with their mothers' milk and like most sheep breeds they absolutely must have the first milk or colostrum for the protective antibodies it contains. On the hills the sheep will be out all the time, even through winter and lambing though the diet may be supplemented with mineral licks, hay or silage and commercial feed. Under lowland management, where the labs are born earlier the sheep may be brought indoors over winter and will be brought indoors subsequent to lambing. After lambing they are turned out and their feed is supplemented with mineral licks, molasses and commercial feed. The lambs will naturally begin to eat grass at about six weeks. Llandovery Whiteface Hill sheep sheep are hardy and can thrive on rough pasture. Indeed, they are one of the recommended breeds for grazing management of nature reserves.

Written by Dyfed Lloyd Evans

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