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 35 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 8 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. 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 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 2 boys (Smokie dun with yellow highlights and Arnie currently black) and 2 girls (Coco black and Grace Silver). 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 3 layered coat and moult most of their coat in the summer (for the felters, it felts very well, wet and needle).
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, 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 is an 12 year old Oxford Down called Katie. Our flock is now made up of home bred ewes and 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. They are not escape artists and love grass.
We usually have shearling ewes (ewes aged 12-24 months) for sale from late spring and occasionally rams.
Our 4 boys – Henry & Mazda (white), Oliver (fawn) and Harry (chocolate / brown) arrived aged about 3 years old and quite timid. 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. Mazda’s fleece is ‘shot’ suddenly turning coarse a couple of years ago with lots of coarse ‘guard’ hair and it is now used to protect flowers and veg from slugs which it does really well. The other 2 have a reasonable fleece, though not quite as good as when we first got them.
Our alpacas love posing for photos!
CHICKENS AND DUCKS
We have a variety of chickens who lay a range of coloured eggs (white, several shades of brown, and greeny blue), 4 Magpie and 2 Muscovy ducks. 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 initial 2 Magpie ducks were rehomed to us and we kept 2 of their offspring. They chatter a lot and love swimming. The Muscovy’s are much fussier than the Magpies, only swimming in fresh water and then only occasionally – they sort of low pitch squeak and wiggle their bottoms a lot.
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 put the 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.