New sheep in our orchards
Published: 22 June 2015
New Shropshire sheep have been put into our orchard to help keep the grass - and the disease down.
Jack Skuse, from our farm partners Ambios, worked with our gardeners, volunteers and children & teachers from South Devon Steiner School, on doing the sheep transfer.
First, the ram was shooed out of the orchard. We have no sheepdog, so everyone gathered to herd the ram towards the top of the steeply-sloping orchard, where another
volunteer was rattling a bucket of sheep nuts (eventually, we hope to tame the sheep to come to the rattling bucket).
He was tethered and 8 Shropshire sheep (4 ewes and 4 lambs) were let loose in the orchard.
They will keep the grass down, while also eating dropped leaves from the fruit trees (mainly apples, but with some plum and pear trees).
This is important - Shropshire sheep are particularly well-suited for grazing orchards. They don't nibble the trees' bark, nor fruits. Instead, by eating the dropped fruit tree
leaves, they help to keep down the incidence of fruit scab (which is carried in the leaves).
In some cases, the incidence of scab has reduced by 80% after Shropshire sheep have been introduced.
The sheep are a permanent addition to the Home Orchard and the Long Orchard at Sharpham Trust - where heritage fruit trees are being grown and nurtured.
A SHEEP NEWS UPDATE:
The Shropshires have since been taken for shearing. It's summertime and shearing their fleece helps with keeping down flystrike (when flies lay maggots in their fleece).
We're not sure what to do with the fleeces at the moment, although there is a chance that they will be used as mulch in the same orchards that the sheep are grazing. The fleeces will help to keep down weeds and keep in moisture and goodness around the base of the fruit trees.
Jack Skuse (who is in the before-and-after shots below) shot this video: