One of our Blue Texel lambs
Blue sheep? Surely not? You might have been forgiven for thinking your eyes were playing tricks if you encountered the latest unusual additions to the Heart of England Forest’s family of sheep at our recent Lambing Live event, but it’s true – we now have a flock of Blue Texel sheep, and, yes, they really ARE blue!
Those that have followed our story closely will know that the Forest’s founder, Felix Dennis, always championed rare and uncommon animal breeds and we remain committed to continuing his vision. Now, as we take stock after the recent lambing season, our flock has grown still further, and all our breeds continue to prosper. Earlier this year, the flock of Blue Texels joined an already flourishing family that included 40 Jacob sheep and a selection of over 130 Lleyn, Lleyn cross Texels and Suffolk sheep.
A hardy breed
Blue Texels originate from Holland (Texel is an island off their mainland). They first came to prominence in the early 1970s when a blue sheep was born to white Texel parents. After this they were deliberately bred to give birth to blue lambs, although up to 90% of newborns are born white before gradually assuming their distinctive blue hue. Known as a hardy breed, they are also relatively low-maintenance and well suited to our organic farming. Meanwhile, their lambs are usually strong at birth, suckling from their mothers very quickly. As we went to press, over 30 new Blue Texel lambs had been born to the flock, with two more expectant mothers awaiting new arrivals.
Not only easy to keep, Blue Texels are also noted as an unusually affable breed. As the man charged with looking after them, Heart of England Forest shepherd Claude, says, “they are really quite friendly – more so than many breeds.” While the ewes might be sociable types, the flock’s resident ram, Denzil, can be quite a handful. “He’s a real character”, says Claude, “and although he’s actually very friendly towards everyone, he has an annoying habit of occasionally headbutting your legs when you least expect it. It pays to keep an eye on him!”
Meeting the family
Mid-April saw Claude and his crew playing host at our own Lambing Live, when almost 50 lucky members of the public visited the flock to welcome the new arrivals. Not only did they have the chance to hold and feed some of the youngsters, but they were also privileged to experience the birth of both a double and a triple set of lambs – twins and triplets! And even with some ewes still to give birth, Claude reports lambing numbers well up on last year.
Claude with this year’s first Blue Texel lamb
If you missed our Lambing Live event and want another chance to ‘meet the animal family’, why not come along to our Open Farm Sunday event in Dorsington, on June 10th from 1pm-4pm? As part of the national LEAF Open Farm Sunday, you can come and learn about our organic farm, help feed the lambs and meet some of the other animals, including Dave the calf and Ziggy the alpaca. Our tractor selfie stations are always a big hit with the children, too. Registration is required, so to book your place please visit our events page.