The Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset Sheep Association’s National Show has fast become a success and drawn breeders from across the country since its calendar debut – and this year will be no different.
Taking place on Thursday 1 June 2023, the National Show will be hosted by the Royal Bath & West Show in Shepton Mallet, Somerset. Association members will be high spirits in the sheep lines and the ring, with a catalogue of top quality competition and social engagement.
Tapping out the very best of the day will be the Association’s President, Roger Elliott. He has five decades of sheep judging experience and 35 years of running pedigree Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset sheep on his home farm near Daventry. Supplying prime lambs to the local market and the family’s 130 year-old butchery, he understands the breed not only as a show animal, but as a valuable, commercial breed.
Broad, long and straight, with formidable muscle coverage, the Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset are an adaptable and versatile breed, says Mr Elliott. “For many breeders, lambs will be produced and reared for meat, and that influences what I want to see. They need to be well turned out, and straight and square. I want to see easy fleshing – but not overfat – and they need to have something about them.”
The shearling classes are often an eye-catcher for Mr Elliot. “I like these classes because the stock have developed and grown – you’re seeing what they’ve grown into and their real potential.”
He also considers the breed’s place in today’s market. “They are very capable of milking and growing off of grass,” he says. “With the current cost of feed, reliance on concentrates makes for a very expensive operation – you want to be able to produce a fat lamb without, or with as little concentrate as possible.”
The breed society added the National Show to the calendar four years ago, to promote the Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset as the incredibly versatile breed it is, says Association chair, Tim Pratt.
Running a vegetable farm with Dorset sheep in Suffolk, Mr Pratt compliments the breed on its traits – like all-year-round lambing – and its ability to fit within a multitude of farm systems, including integrated livestock on arable, horticultural, and regenerative operations.
“On our farm, for example, the sheep suit our rotation because we can lamb in the autumn and utilise the cover crops as grazing over the winter, and have lambs away before spring planting begins,” he says. “It brings costs down when you have a breed that can fit in with and utilise home-grown forage and cover crops – which farmers are increasingly pursuing with a focus on soil health.
“Additionally, there’s further benefit because funding for cover crops reduces the costs of rearing lambs. And, in the case of the Dorset Horn, a ‘native breeds at risk’ supplement is available through the Countryside Stewardship scheme.”
Mr Pratt is looking forward to seeing the cream of the crop at the Royal Bath & West Show. “It’s a very well renowned agricultural show; well-located, and it always has the very best quality livestock being exhibited,” he says. “Having our National Show there will really build on the credibility the Dorsets have, and I’m looking forward to seeing breeders from all across the country get together.”
- The Royal Bath & West Show takes place on 1-3 June 2023 at The Showground, Shepton Mallet, Somerset BA4 6QN. Book show tickets here: bathandwest.com/tickets
- For more information on the Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset and the breed’s Association visit: dorsetsheep.org.uk