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Devon and Cornwall Longwool gives great wins for Darke family

10
Aug '09
Edward Darke with one of his top winning Devon and Cornwall Longwool sheep.
The Darke family from Kingsbridge, Devon has been sweeping the Board at shows this summer and taken a fistful of titles – all thanks to the quality of the wool from their famous flock of Devon and Cornwall Longwool sheep.

With a yearling ewe from their 60-strong pedigree flock run at Coleridge Farm, Chillington they took the coveted “Champion of Champions Wool on the Hoof” award at the Royal Cornwall Show as well as the championship in the fleece competition organised by the British Wool Marketing Board at the Royal Show at Stoneleigh.

Edward Darke, who farms 750 acres with his brother Ian and son Richard, also won the supreme Wool on the Hoof championship at the Royal Bath and West Show and the fleece championship at the Royal Cornwall Show. And the family's Wool on the Hoof champion has also been collecting plenty of other big wins along the way. She was female champion at the Devon County, the Royal Bath and West, the Royal Cornwall and the Royal shows.

“It's been a tremendous summer for us. Our sheep and their wool have given us some great wins – especially the Champion of Champions Wool on the Hoof title at the Royal Cornwall,” says Edward.

This top award brings together at the Royal Cornwall Show the wool on the hoof champions from the Royal Bath and West, the Devon County and the Royal Cornwall shows to compete for the supreme accolade.

The fifth generation of the Darke family is now involved in sheep breeding at Coleridge Farm with 16-year-old Matthew and 13-year-old Sam already involved in showing.

The family, which also milks 250 cows and runs a flock of 400 Texel x Mule and Suffolk x Mule ewes, has kept a flock of the region's native breed for generations.

“Originally it was known as the South Devon but in 1970 the breed became the Devon and Cornwall Longwool,” says Edward Darke.

The family keeps around 60 pedigree Devon and Cornwall Longwool ewes – although the breed is very rare and there are only around 800 breeding females throughout the UK.

“We select for conformation in our breeding stock but the quality of the fleece is important too. We look for wool with plenty of length and good staples in the fleece. The breed has a coarse wool but that's to ensure it gives them plenty of protection in the winter. And fleece weights can be up to 17kg on mature rams,” says Edward.

But winning top fleece awards is something that needs plenty of planning. The Darke family start looking at the fleece quality of individual sheep as early as January as they begin to select potential winners for the next show season.

“And because many of our fields here have red soil we've got to be careful that we keep our show sheep on land where they stay white all winter,” says Edward.

Stephen Spencer, the British Wool Marketing Board's Wool Marketing Manager, is involved with the many fleece competitions organised by the Wool Board during the summer.

“This has been a great season for the Darke family's Devon and Cornwall Longwool flock. They must be congratulated on the quality of the wool they have achieved – both in fleece competitions and in the very hotly contested wool on the hoof classes.”

British Wool Marketing Board


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