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Cotswold sheep create fortunes for wool business

16
May '08
Davina Stanhope with some of her prize-winning sheep
The quality and quantity of wool produced by the Cotswold – now one of Britain's rarest sheep breeds – once made vast fortunes for English wool merchants. Although there are now only around 1300 Cotswold sheep left in the UK, someone who strives to maintain the quality of Cotswold wool is Shropshire flock owner Davina Stanhope who runs one of the UK's largest flocks at Eaton Constantine, near Shrewsbury.

Her Tingewick flock of 120 Cotswold ewes has produced a string of top winners over the years at some of our most prestigious livestock shows, but as well as taking home trophies for her victories “on the hoof”, Davina Stanhope enjoys considerable success showing the shorn fleeces produced by her prize-winning flock.

“The breed is one of the oldest in the world and can trace its ancestry back to medieval times. But it was in the Middle Ages that wool from Cotswold sheep was at the heart of the English wool trade and generated the wealth that built the “wool” churches and large manor houses of Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds,” says Davina.

The Cotswold is a big breed – mature ewes weigh around 80-90kg with the largest rams reaching over 120kg – and it carries a substantial fleece which can weigh 14lb although ram fleeces can reach 20lb.

Preparation for the coming show season starts early in Davina Stanhope's flock. Lambing is well underway by mid-January and early spring sees the first ewes being shorn in readiness for the summer shows – and to provide prospective entries for fleece competitions.


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