Lambs on Butser Hill

Lambs on Butser Hill

This  biggest of this years lambs, born in April and May, are now going off to market as finished animals. Rother Valley Organics, a family run organic farming business from just across the border in West Sussex, have a Farm Business Tenancy on the Hill and such manage the Park’s 250 sheep and their own beef cattle. This is done in a way that both promotes the conservation priorities on the National Nature Reserve as well as maintaining a level of productivity from the livestock. Being able to produce lamb and beef is an important source of funding to add to the grant income recieved from DEFRA and Natural England. 

The site and it’s livestock are registered under the Organic and FABBL (Little Red Tractor) schemes where fertilisers, pesticides and feed are very tightly controlled. The produce is sold from the Park’s shop, via the Rother Valley web-site and, as we are both Hampshire Fare members, through the local farmers markets.

Texel and Hampshire Down rams

Texel and Hampshire Down rams

Each year in November and December the rams are put in with the 250 Beulah ewes. The Beulah is a Welsh Hill breed designed to cope with severe weather and rough grazing. Butser Hill is the highest point on the South Downs and, at 270m or 888ft, the closest thing we have to a mountain in this part of the world.  To produce a saleable lamb carcass the ewes are put to  Texel, Hampshire Down or Dorset Horn rams. These are introduced over a series of three 16 day cycles so that the ewes which become pregnant soonest can be later separated for accurate supplementary feeding. This starts 6 weeks prior to lambing on an increasing rate as the date gets closer. Using  an ultrasound test those carrying twins will be identified and fed accordingly. Organic crushed barley is used as the feed.

All the Park’s ewes are taken off site at this 6 week stage and lambed in a more sheltered location. They are returned in small groups once they have lambed.

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