More than 180 of the UK’s finest Dorset sheep competed for top honours at the prestigious Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset May Fair on Tuesday (8 May).
The Exeter-based event, which is the first major sheep breeding sale in the farming calendar, attracted entrants from all across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with some top quality stock. “This is the premier Dorset sale – you truly test yourself against the best Dorset sheep in the country at the May Fair,” explained James Royan, chairman of the Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset Society.
Scooping the supreme championship was David Lewis from Narberth, Pembrokeshire, with his poll yearling ram Pembroke Zupreme Z172. Sired by Ballytaggart Upstart U873 and out of Pembroke S139, this ram really caught judge Andrew Kingdon’s eye. “He’s just an outstanding sheep,” he explained. “I’m looking for good flesh, and an animal that’s correct on its feet – he just had the edge.”
Mr Lewis, who keeps 300 pedigree Poll Dorset ewes and 250 commercial sheep at Llangwathen, identified the ram as a potential winner at an early stage. “I always thought he could be the right sheep, but you just don’t know how they will turn out until you start feeding them and shearing them. He’s very powerful and just handles so well.”
Completing Mr Lewis’s perfect day was his ewe lamb Pembroke Amaretto A9, which managed to take the champion female title as well. By Richhill Wallace and out of Pembroke S2, this poll ewe lamb was born in September 2017. “She was very correct in every way, with excellent presence,” said judge and society president Francis Fooks. He placed Robert Hole’s Sherborne Zest Z4395 in the reserve position.
“To win the female and male championships in the same day is just unreal,” said Mr Lewis. “I’ve only kept Dorsets for nine years so I try and select the cream of the crop to bring here and get my name established.”
Reserve champion male went to a pair of polled sheep from Graham Cubitt’s Kildowney flock in Ballymena.
The largest class, with 36 contenders, was the best single poll ram lamb, judged by Alec Steff. He picked Seamus Mullen’s Islaharnan Allstar A220 as his champion, all the way from County Antrim, Northern Ireland. “He was very correct with good structure, legs and body,” explained Mr Steff. “He was good in the mouth and was of true breed type with a good back end.”
The best single horn ram lamb went to Ben Lamb’s Richhill Axel A1022, which also travelled over from Northern Ireland, from County Armagh. “He had a tremendous head with wide width between the horns, which came out level and curved,” said judge Denis Rankine. “He also had good legs and a great body – he was a very good sheep for the breed.”
Mr Lamb also had success in the best pen of five or more rams, judged by Mr Royan. “It’s the first time we’ve won this award. It can be hard to win with a horned ram in a pen of polled rams, as they often don’t match,” said Mr Lamb, who bought his first Dorset Horn at the Exeter May Fair when he was 12 years old. However, Mr Royan praised the even group of rams. “They all handled tremendously well with strong breed character coming through.”