Question…..can you farm 800+ sheep from a small terraced cottage in Maiden Bradley and own no land? Well, as you might guess from the fact that I ask the question, the answer is yes, cos Tim White is doing it.
Tim lives with his artist partner, Jules, on the main street of Maiden Bradley and runs his sheep mainly around Salisbury plain, but with them spread across Wiltshire, Dorset and Devon. He is what he calls a ‘grazier, but personally think ‘nomadic shepherd’ conjures up something closer to the truth. He basically begs and borrows access to land, most of the time getting it from large cereal farmers who are leaving the filed fallow for a year. Everyone wins, Tim gets his pasture, the land owner gets a bit of extra fertiliser spread on his resting field, whilst the sheep are never fed anything other than grass. It does mean though that Tim doesn’t know from year to year, to some extent season to season, where his lands, and hence his sheep, are going to be – its an ever changing scenario and he moves and follows accordingly.
Don’t read low tech though into this nomadic way of living. The day I was with him any problem sheep were treated there and then and with every sheep chipped, each has its own individual computer record available in the field on his handset so he knows what’s gone before from the full history each animal The records are fed into his home computer so that he can also select and breed to produce more robust, stronger sheep with good meat. He has operated a zero tolerance attitude to any problem in his breeding sheep for many years to meet his low maintenance needs. His breeding programmes include self shedding so that the costly – and time consuming – business of shearing is not required, hence the name of his business, Proven Shedding Sheep. This self shedding bit had certainly produced a wonderful looking sheep when I was with him even in mid January.
My day with Tim was also the other half of my education in the widest sense. They just don’t teach you his ‘beg, (steal) or borrow’ style of living at university!!!! Land wise, its a way that Tim is convinced can overcome the immediate shortages of land apparently available for young people wanting to become farmers. The picture across the Land Workers Alliance is of no shortage of young, would-be, new-breed farmers, but a massive access to land issue with farming land so ridiculously over priced right now. Knock on doors and ask is Tim’s advice, there is more land than land owners know what to do with. Just spending a day with him, I can see how it works well for him as sheep breeder/shepherd working in an area of large arable farms. Whilst its not clear how well it would work in other areas, it may be short term solution. All round Tim and his nomadic shepherding gives plenty food for thought!
For more see Proven Shedding Sheep
[Double clicking on any of the images below will open up that image up in a slideshow format. You can then run the slide show using ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons. Personally I prefer to go also to full screen having opened the slide show – F11 on my PC, don’t forget to get out of full screen is the same button , not ESC!]