Mannkind Pedigrees

Breeding Texel And Lleyn Rams For Commercial Sheep Farmers

New Breeding Season Approaching…Fast!

I can’t believe where all this time has gone!

Not so long ago we were in the thick of lambing and then halter training and shampooing one of our rams for the Devon County Show – an encouraging fourth place by the way!

But now August is actually here and in less than three weeks time the teaser rams will be going in with the ewes as the first stage of the ‘hormonal onslaught’ designed to have them in peak condition for their AI procedure on the 19 September.

So much to do! The rams and teasers had their major service last week; all the ewes are up to date on their Footvax jab; culls selected and a bunch of 18 ewes ‘under review’. We will see how these go, but one thing is certain – we will not AI them…if they continue to improve as we wish they will go for natural service.

As for the lambs, well, they have now turned into annoying teenagers! Which made splitting them up and footbathing them last week a little more exciting than hoped for. They are also now clear of the coccydiosis that had checked their growth rates, so that is good too.

New For 2014

For many years we have wanted to add value to our cull ewes by selling them direct as boxed whole mutton rather than just putting them through the market. Now we have the team, skills and enthusiasm to do this so are working hard to get them into tip top condition for sale in September / October. They are currently grazing unimproved (and slightly wild) pasture so hopefully this will enhance the flavour of the meat. Should be good.

First orders already taken so hopefully all will be pre-sold before they go for slaughter and butchery at one of our local butchers.



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Red Kite In The Quantocks

I have been hoping and waiting for this moment for YEARS!

Today, at 11.45am(ish) I was chatting with a neighbour up at the sheepshed when he suddenly looked up and said, “oh look there’s a buzzard”. He knows that I have a deep interest in birds of prey and so will always draw my attention to them if he sees and I don’t.

I turned and looked up and instantly replied, “oh no it isn’t…that’s a Red Kite! A female Red Kite! This hasn’t just made my day…it’s made my year! I’m so happy to see her…at last!”

I have seen lot’s of Red Kites in my life, most recently in Switzerland at Easter. But I have never seen a wild one in the UK. Today that all changed.

There have been rumours of Red Kite in the Quantocks for a few years now. But, no substantiated sightings from anyone who really knows about raptors. Until today, when I saw ‘my bird’.

We watched in awe as she climbed above us on a thermal, then folded her wings and accelerated away towards Taunton. Wonderful, wonderful.

The sighting raises so many questions: Where did she come from – Wales or Oxfordshire? How long has she been here? Does she have a mate nearby and will they breed this year? Where? Will they stay? Oh, please do! I just can’t wait to see her again.

What a great day. In fact what a really good birding weekend this Bank Holiday is proving to be, because in addition to seeing ‘my’ Red Kite today I also heard a cuckoo yesterday (my first here for a number of years) and the swallows arrived too. Spring really is here now isn’t it?

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School Lambing Visit 2014

The children walked up from the school – initially on the road through the village and then through a couple of fields past the church. This route not only kept them safely off the roads, but also gave them the chance to see the “daddy” sheep and some of the alpacas.

I think the walk was just shy of a mile so on arrival at the Sheepshed the children had a welcome rest, drink and biscuit before dipping their boots in the disinfectant going inside for the main event.

Paul, Tom and I thoroughly enjoyed introducing the children to the pregnant ewes, the newly born lambs and older lambs with their mothers in the creche and those already turned out to field. The only disappointment was the lack of any live lambing!

Paul with day old lambIt was a great pleasure and joy to welcome the youngest children of our local village school to the Sheepshed on 17 March.

The children asked lots of really good questions and made some very astute observations, particularly when we showed them how we tag, ring, electronically process and weigh the lambs. We asked the children to guess how much the lamb weighed and I am delighted to say that they enthusiastically gave a wide variety of suggestions, but it was one of the teachers who was closest to the mark!

Time flew by and all too soon it was time for them to leave for the walk to school, smiles on all faces.

We are already looking forward to their visit next year. Let’s just hope that we can provide them with a live lambing experience too.

Ewe train

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The All New Mannkind Pedigrees

Hello and welcome to our new website!

2014 is the dawn of the new era in our pedigree sheep breeding programme, and what better way to begin than with a new website showcasing our crop of stunning lambs on the ground.

Sheep & lamb; Alpacas

Over the last few months we have transformed into the slick and efficient operation that we have always wanted to be. And the effort has paid dividends with the sheep and alpacas visibly transformed into happier and easier to manage animals.

Of course, we have not managed this alone and a lot of credit goes to our two experienced contract shepherds and also to our enthusiastic and diligent student.  All three are technology savvy and while we’ve been using EID since 2006, it has not been utilised to its full extent…until now.

2014 sees that change, particularly as we hope to begin Signet Recording in the next few years. So, all lambs were weighed at birth, lambing ease and mothering ability recorded, birthing problems, etc. We will also be recording all lamb weights at 8 weeks and 21 weeks with replacement ewes being weighed again at 18 months (so we have an indicator of mature weights).

We’ve also moved over to a quasi paddock grazing system to help maximise our grass productivity and minimise wastage. It is our mission to produce quality rams and replacement ewes under commercial conditions, so they must grow well on grass and by grazing like this we should be able to keep enough ahead of the lambs to minimize checks in growth.

There is an awful lot of work for us to do. We have set the bar very high – to produce top quality rams and replacement ewes for commercial sheep farmers – but we are up for it. These are exciting times for us and we hope you will tune in from time to time and join us on the journey.


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London 2012 – Magnificent

Today is really very much ‘the day after the night before’! After a wonderful opening ceremony, 17 days of fantastic sport, seeing London and her people at their very best and finally a glittering closing ceremony party last night, the flame is out and it is now all over.

In my opinion the London 2012 Olympic Games have delivered the best and happiest Games ever. I have watched so much of it, more than ever before – both live and via the BBC’s excellent coverage. I have enjoyed it all.

I, like most, am eternally grateful to all those who made it the Games it was – particularly the amazing athletes, the infectiously happy and helpful Game Maker volunteers and our military personnel who made us all feel so safe and well looked after. Thank you all.

I have always wanted to attend an Olympic Games, and since London was awarded the Games back in 2005 I have looked forward to it enormously. I was very lucky to get my tickets in the first ballot in May 2011. I couldn’t believe it….I got a third of what I applied for and everything I applied for was for my sports and what I wanted to see. Brilliant!

So over the last fortnight my family, friends and I have enjoyed two evening sessions in the Olympic Stadium watching the athletics – seeing Jessica Ennis and Greg Rutherford work towards their golds and one Usain Bolt confirm his place in the 200m final and in history itself. The stadium is magnificent and roar of the crown absolutely phenomenal.

Three days at Greenwich Park for the Team and Individual Dressage was equally mesmeric and inspiring. Seeing Great Britain win the first ever medal (gold no less) in the team event and then witnessing Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro’s stunning test to claim the individual gold was absolutely wonderful.

I could go on for ever, but I won’t as you most probably have your own wonderful memories to enjoy.

Thank you, thank you, thank you London for the Best Show on Earth.

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Country Living and Fitness

I recently read an article asking whether country living was an obstacle to fitness. It suggested that some people living in rural areas were at greater risk of obesity. I think it is a subject well worth researching as I have noticed a bit of a trend down where I am for wimping out of exercising.

Of course, I do not include ‘natural’ exercise and exercisers in this category. By this I mean walking, running and working in the great outdoors. The type of exercise I’m referring to is that which could actually be done in a gym or studio. But hey, the great outdoors is the best gym or studio there is.

What I have noticed is that people in the towns and cities seem to be much keener to get outside (regardless of the weather) and exercise. You see countless circuit or kettlebell groups going through their paces at the crack of dawn in the pouring rain. Maybe it’s because they are fed up with the concrete around them and need a bit of green. Or maybe it’s because they are aware of the research which has shown that exercising outside, rather than in a gym, is much better for you. Either way, they are out. In the rural setting where I am based I have found that numerous people yern for the shiny gym if anything at all. Getting them to commit to a kettlebell class in a field with a cracking view is very difficult and those who perhaps need the exercise most are the ones first to retreat to the comfort and warmth of the sofa!

These are just some of my observations. Perhaps you have either read or seen something similar yourself.

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Olympic flame brings out the sunshine in sunny Somerset

Baby Tawny OwlSince the Olympic flame arrived in the west country on the 18 May the sun has shone brightly and so too, it would seem, have peoples’ spirits.

Having tickets for the Games I ummed and arhhed about whether or not to bother going down town to see the torch relay. In the end I thought, “what the hell”, and popped down. I’m so glad that I did! It was wonderful and joyful. Seeing the joy on the torch bearers faces was infectious. I was so happy to see it – the Games are really on their way! And as for Taunton, it looked good after the winter gloom and I am very pleased to say that we Tauntonians were the first to truly get into the spirit of welcoming the Olympics to our town.

I must admit that I have been saddened to hear of some torchbearers selling their torches. To my mind they are precious personal mementos for them and their descendants to treasure. Ok, some might want to raise money for charities that they support. But please, eBay? Where’s the dignity in that? If you want to use it to raise money then organise a proper fund raising event or auction.

Returning home after watching the torch relay on Monday evening I went for a walk. A few characters not recently seen put in an appearance – sweet baby Tawny Owl perched up high like a statue; a Bullfinch; fox carrying rabbit to hungry cubs and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers. The Buzzards, as usual, floated majestically above.