ABOUT EMBOROUGH FARM
We (Philip and Val) started our smallholding in 2013 with 4 male alpacas, with the aim of using the fleece to make things. Shortly afterwards we got some chicken – mainly because we obtained a cheap Eglu chicken house and run. Things then just increased very rapidly with the arrival of 4 pedigree Ryeland sheep (and a loan ram) resulting in a couple of lambs. We now have about 40 breeding ewes (mostly white and coloured ryelands) and 70-100 followers. In December 2016 we got our first 2 pedigree Highland Cows (Dot and Flo), with a bull (Dewi) following a year later and another cow (Lizzie) in 2019 – we have so far had 12 calves. We also got a few ducks and geese along the way. We demonstrate spinning and weaving at several local shows and sell processed fleece and are starting to sell meat and meat products (we have a 5 star food rating). We also do 2 calendars annually (Highland Cow & Smallholders) and an ever increasing range of greetings cards – all produced ourselves using our own photographs and equipment.
Our first 2 were girls called Dot (red) & Flo (yellow) - their pedigree names are too long for here. They came pregnant and both produced boys Augustus (red) and Septimus (yellow). Next followed our bull Dewi (dun with yellow highlights) from north Wales – we first saw him at the Royal Welsh Show, he was only 2, but has since fathered 3 boys (Smokie dun with yellow highlights, Arnie black and prize winning Fergus who is a brindle) and 6 girls (Coco black Grace dun, Mary yellow, Diane dark red, Willow and Emma). Lizzie (brindle) arrived pregnant in Jan 2019 and had a calf in the summer – Rosie (brindle). Highland cows may be born one colour and change during their first year or so (as have most of ours). They have a 2 layered coat and moult most of it in the summer (for the wet and needle felters, it felts very well).
We occasionally have pedigree heifers and pedigree bulls for sale – they have excellent blood lines from some of the top folds in the country.
Our first 4 sheep (White Ryelands) were called Bossy (she was and still is bossy), Katie, Trousers (as she kept nibbling our trousers) and Daisy. We have since increased our breeding stock with the addition of more white Ryelands, coloured Ryelands, 3 Oxford Downs and 3 Texel/Welsh Mountain cross (for ewes that lost their lambs and were pining for another). Our oldest are 3 coloured Ryelands called "The P's" due to their breed year of birth letter of 'P' - they are 12. Our flock is now made up mainly of home bred ewes and a few bought in ones. Sheep are supposed to be stupid, but we have found them to be very intelligent, quite crafty when it suits, they have friends and know their family (Bossy’s first lamb, Missy, always lambs in-front of Bossy if she can, Bossy is now a great grandmother).
Ryelands are an ideal small-holder breed with a very soft fleece loved by hand spinners and they produce great tasting meat which when slow grown on grass is not too fatty. They may be small in appearance (compared to commercial breeds), but their weight is not much different to other breeds - we have had some over 110kg. They are not usually escape artists and love grass.
We usually have shearling ewes (ewes aged 12-24 months) for sale from late spring and occasionally rams.
Our 3 boys – Henry (white), Oliver (fawn) and Harry (chocolate / brown) arrived aged about 3 years old and quite timid in 2013. They have now calmed down and are a lot more friendly. Harry’s fleece is by far the best quality, producing a lovely soft fleece when shorn. Oliver and Henry's fleeces are not as good as Harry's, but are still very soft. Unfortunately Mazda, who came with the others, died in 2021. We keep the best fleece for yarn and roving and the poor quality is now used to protect flowers and veg from slugs which it does really well.
Our alpacas love posing for photos! and often get people coming just to see them.
CHICKENS AND DUCKS
We have a variety of chickens who lay a range of coloured eggs (white, several shades of brown, and greeny blue) and currently only 2 Magpie ducks (we have reduced our ducks temporarily due to space, rehoming some with a friend). The chickens lay eggs for most of the year, but during the winter moult they stop. Ducks only lay from spring until autumn, usually, and their eggs are slightly larger than hens’ eggs. Ducks eggs make great sponge cakes.
Our 2 Magpie ducks were rehomed to us. They chatter a lot and love swimming. We are hoping to get some Khaki Campbell ducks in the near future.
We got 4 geese a few years ago and they laid eggs very well, but we wanted West of England geese and although we were told these were, we realised when we arrived to collect them that they definitely were not, so after 2 years we found them a local home (where they apparently now put their ducks to bed) and found some young West of England geese – 3 girls and boy. West of England geese can be sexed at birth due to their markings – the females are black marked, whereas the males are white. They are a rare breed. Egg laying for geese is usually late Feb to early June and they lay an egg more or less every 2 days – eggs are the size of 3 medium hens’ eggs and their shells are sometimes decorated by skilled artists. We hope to start breeding them in a year or so.