Home of the Nithsdale Valais Blacknose Flock
In 2020 I realised that I needed some sheep to help the grazing of the land and also to tidy up the ground after the horses had been in a field so I decided to get some sheep. Sheep are incredibly useful at land maintenance because, as opposed to horses, they nibble the grass rather than rip it out so they finish off everything the horses leave untidy. Additionally, they are excellent to keep for the worming maintenance of the land as the worming cycle that may be produced through horses grazing is ended with sheep due to any potential equine worms not surviving in sheep or cattle.
So, I looked into a few different breeds. Who knew there were so many breeds of sheep!! My main goal was to try and be unique with what I would have so I looked up rarer breeds of sheep in the UK. There were a few that I liked the sound of, particularly the Herdwicks however, I had heard many a horror story of what a nightmare they were to keep in a field, the “Houdinis” of the sheep world! With more research I put in a specific Google search of the friendliest sheep as with guests staying on the farm it was important for me to find a breed that would co-exist and get on really well with humans. Through my searches, I came upon the Valais Blacknose breed and instantly fell in love. I knew they were the sheep for me.
Originally from the Swiss canton area of Valais they are a rare breed in the UK having only made it over to the UK in 2014. They are a Heritage breed and their first mention can be traced back to the fifteenth century. In their native Switzerland, as a breed, they have come under threat a number of times and at one point in 1983 there were only 9940 but, due to human intervention and protection, numbers have risen. They are, however, already classed as a rare breed, now finding themselves under threat again due to the moving of of wolves back into their area. As they are such a domesticated breed it is in their nature to be friendly and is, understandably, the reason they are known for being “the most friendly sheep in the world”. They have incredibly placid natures and are very easily trained (treats are well loved!)
I got my first two wether (castrated) boys, Hamlet & Hamish, in February 2020. The boys were bottle fed here on the farm, having been rejected by their mums, which only increased their naturally friendly nature. They settled in brilliantly with Dali, my big Dalmatian boy, taking them under his paw and looking after them too. They were followed by two more wether boys, Haggis and Handel, also needing bottle fed, and my love for them and the breed erupted from there. I wanted to try and do my bit for the breed conservation, and my first pedigree ewes arrived later that year. I have done so much research on them as well as Valais Blacknose breeders in the UK and have sourced some, of what I think, are some of the best quality of Valais Blacknose in the UK to try and retain the original Swiss qualities and attributes to the breed.
As of writing in March 2023, I am excitedly awaiting my first results of my labour of love in the arrival of my first Nithsdale Valais Lambs. They have all been an absolutely huge hit with the guests, many of whom have never even thought of stroking a sheep before, and have been able to get plenty of cuddles and sheep selfies with my pet flock. Guests come and stay on the farm where, uniquely, the sheep run towards you for treats and cuddles.