Younger sheep farmer ditches metropolis life for 200-strong flock


Younger Sheep Farmer 

On this week’s sheep farming section, That’s Farming talks to first-generation farmer, Amy Donkin (26). We talk about her pathway into agriculture, breed choice, lambing intervals, buying her present holding, and constructing a sustainable flock.

Coming from a background of pit labourers and nurses and rising up in a terraced home within the metropolis is a far cry from Amy Donkin’s present sheep farming life.

Though farming doesn’t run within the County Durham native’s household, she has embraced farm life to its fullest, having moved to Teesdale, England, round fourteen years in the past.

She instructed That’s Farming: “A few of my earliest reminiscences contain serving to my stepfather together with his sheep when he met my mam. I used to be bitten by the farming bug from then.”

“My mom and stepfather met after I was six-years-old, and he had only a few sheep on the time, about 20.”

“I’ve at all times cherished animals; I’ve at all times helped with the sheep and have been very hands-on, generally, with the farm.”

“Farming has at all times drawn me again in with a calling for it; we don’t know the place it got here from.

We had a handful of suckler cows prior to now. At present, we personal one pet cow; she is named Hope, after the place the place we dwell.”

Younger sheep farmer 

Amy commenced employment at a widely known agricultural provide retailer and farming part-time on the present holding she acquired by phrase of mouth.

“Regardless of this, we’re on a BFA tenancy. My dad requested the house owners if we may let the farm; we’ve got nice landlords who’re farmers themselves.”

Following this, she returned to her research in Askham Bryan to high up her diploma to an agricultural administration diploma.

Along with this, Amy accomplished a transport of animals and sheep dipping course and obtained her trailer licence.

Her holding is in Hope, close to Barnard Citadel, County Durham. The household rents 120-acres, with 60-acres at residence. The land contained on this holding is scattered by County Durham, Darlington, and North Yorkshire.

Amy, her stepfather, Stephen, sister, Izzy and mom, Hilary, are all concerned within the operating of the sheep enterprise.

Amy manages her flock beneath the title: Baarbarian Livestock, whereas her stepfather and sister additionally run a separate flock, often called West Hope Flock.

Her flock contains an array of Cheviot, Dutch Noticed, Valais Blacknose-crosses, Swaledale, Badger Face-crosses and continental-type ewes.

Choosing breeds

Amy selected Cheviot-crosses because the predominant breed inside her flock.

“We cross a mule with a Cheviot. This makes for a really large, framed ewe that may cope with being over 1,000ft. They give the impression of being after themselves and get on with lambing.”

“In the meantime, my dad has his pedigree Dutch Noticed, that are well-shaped sheep, good moms and really quiet. We cross these onto our Cheviot-crosses and continentals.”

“We use largely out Dutch Noticed tups, so could be grade 4 Dutch Noticed-crosses for probably the most half.”

By way of a great breed, Amy prefers Cheviots and Dutch Spotteds for a number of causes.

“Cheviots are a really hardy breed which produces good retailer lambs. They’re good moms too. Dutch Noticed are good moms, lambs are vigorous and are sucking immediately, additionally they produce excellent lambs and substitute ewes.”

Moreover, she constructed her flock slowly by the years by initially buying 5 ewes from an area farmer and constructing yr on yr.

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Baarbarian Livestock and West Hope Flock comprise 200 sheep with lambs at foot, with 140-150 of those being breeding ewes.

“We took a unique route this yr and lambed in three intervals, commencing from the beginning of February, finish of March and once more in April. They’re lambing inside 1-2 weeks at a time.”

Lambing takes place indoors for the flock, with no use of cameras.

“We lamb in early February for the pedigrees, and we normally lamb in the course of the college holidays for my sister in March. The hill-crosses lamb higher round April time.”

To attain a compact lambing interval, Amy makes use of sponges and PMSG, which have labored “nicely” for the flock and made it simpler to separate them into teams.


Predominantly, she sells the lambs off as retailer lambs. This yr, she intends to promote her gimmer lambs for breeding functions.

“We promote the pedigree Dutch Noticed at tup gross sales and retain ewe lambs. We try to have a hardy, well-rounded sort of sheep that may take the climate of surviving within the hills, which is a should.”

“Quiet traits are a bonus because it makes life simply that bit simpler relating to dealing with the Dutch Noticed sheep.”

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Adapting to life on the farm

For this younger farmer, probably the most pleasant half is seeing the flock develop from initially having solely a small quantity and seeing the laborious work repay from the selections she makes.

“I might say that farming will get you up day by day, and there’s at all times one thing to do,” she instructed this publication.

Like many farmers, Amy struggles with the monetary burdens and challenges dealing with the agricultural sector.

She thrives on the idea of maintaining each breeds and traditions alive by adjusting these with modern-day farming.

“I imagine you will need to preserve the information and expertise related because it helps with farming at this time. It is usually very important to push for the subsequent era to have the ability to keep on farming.”

“The farm plans contain breeding sheep to promote at breeding gross sales, as we aren’t at an quantity whereby we don’t have to retain as many ewe lambs and might revenue extra from the flock.”

She plans to have a pedigree flock of Cheviots and Valais Blacknose sooner or later.

“Sheep farming is turning into a really tough enterprise, and because it stands, I might say farming on a big scale is viable.”

“Nevertheless, on a smaller scale, being extra selective with breeds would make it a extra viable enterprise.”

Amy advises aspiring sheep farmers “to do what you might be enthusiastic about and go together with the breeds you might be actually involved in”. “Observe your intestine as sheep farming is a sport of taking probabilities.”

She concludes: “I began from a terraced home in the course of a city, with no background or generational farm handed down. We now have a tenanted farm with 200-strong sheep, and the eagerness for farming has by no means given up.”

To share your story like this sheep farmer, e-mail Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming, –

See extra sheep farming profiles


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