About Wiltshire Horn Sheep
The Wiltshire Horn is an attractive and active, long-legged breed of sheep, in which both sexes have horns- the ram’s horns being particularly magnificent. Its modern popularity is due to its ability for self-shedding; it has only a very short fleece which it sheds early in spring, and so it is reared solely for its delicious fine-grained meat. It is a very ancient and hardy breed which in medievel times was the most ubiquitous type of sheep throughout the rough hill country of middle England, where it ranged widely without the need for shepherding.
Ewes and rams have bare face, legs, belly, and under-side to the tail all year, and the sparcity of fleece means that they don’t get caught up in rough vegetation (like brambles or gorse), making them useful for grazing rough pasture and hillsides. Another bonus of this lack of wool is that they don’t usually need crutching and so tails can be left on.
Due to their ability to shed their fleece early in the season before it gets hot, and then stay clean-shed all summer, they are not usually susceptible to flystrike and so don’t need to be sprayed or dipped with fly deterrent. And of course, because they are self-shedding, the biggest benefit is that they don’t need shearing, making them really easy-care sheep, ideal for lifestylers or part-time farmers. Being an older breed, Wiltshire horns have a strong constitution and natural hardiness. They are ideally suited for organic/biological farming systems, especially if purchased from a breeder who farms in this way, since the sheep will then be genetically and physiologically adapted to thrive without the use of a high level of chemical interventions.
The breed has a naturally high fertility, twins being the norm after the first year. Lambing problems are unusual as the breed is characteristically torpedo-shaped (narrower at the front than the back), making them easy lambing. Lambs are born fairly small-bodied but with long legs, and they then grow muscle and size quite fast on thier mothers abundant rich milk. The rams are sought after as terminal sires for meat lambs as being genetically quite different to most other breeds, they produce lambs with exceptional hybrid vigour which grow fast to produce large and very well graded lambs. Wiltshire lamb is an exceptionally fine gourmet meat, being fine-grained and sweet, with muscle marbling (intra-muscular fine-grained fat for flavour) but otherwise very lean, unlike most other modern lamb. Wiltshire hogget lamb (around 1 year old) is an exceptionally fine meat with plenty of flavour but very little excess fat.
With its many unique attributes, especially its self-shedding, it is an ideal breed for low input systems and for small farmers who don’t want all the usual hassles involved with keeping woolly sheep. However, good quality stock is hard to come by in New Zealand, since cross-breeding with wool breeds has often spoilt the genetics for shedding and their other hardy traits. Here at Muriwai Valley Farm, we have brought in new pure blood-lines direct from some of the best Australian breeders, to ensure fully clean shedding sheep. We can boast some of the finest and hardiest Wiltshire sheep in New Zealand, and we know our sheep, having been breeders here in Northland for nearly 20 years.