Welcome to the website of the Shropshire Sheep Breeders' Association, the oldest flock book society in the United Kingdom. Our site covers all aspects of the Shropshire breed, which is well known for producing high quality meat and wool, as well as for grazing in tree plantations. Here you'll find all the latest breed news, pictures, publications, and contributions from Shropshire enthusiasts around the world. We hope you enjoy your visit, and if you're new to Shropshires, perhaps you'll leave with a greater understanding of why we're so passionate about this wonderful breed.
Flock of Ages
The Shropshire breed was developed in the West Midlands in the early 19th century from hardy native sheep that roamed upland and heath areas of Shropshire and neighbouring Staffordshire. Sheep of the region were already famed for the quality of their wool as long ago as the Middle Ages. And in the mid 17th Century, wool from Shropshire was still described as …“choicest and dearest in England”.
Sheep and trees may not be the most obvious combination in cider orchards, with most sheep being rather fond of eating apple trees, but a group of farmers in Herefordshire are seeing the benefits of combining the two. Permaculture readers will be well aware of the useful relationship of ‘double cropping’ apple trees and livestock. The field lab, run through the new network 'Innovative Farmers', and supported by Waitrose and the Prince’s Charities, aims to find reliable evidence that Shropshire sheep break the trend in sheep-apple decimation and can in fact be beneficial even on large scale cider apple production.
Burrough et al (2010) report that there are 25,350 ha of 'traditional orchards' in England and Wales, however Defra (2013) suggest that the total commercial orchard area in England and Wales in 2012 was 17,600 hectares. The main commercial crop is apple (14,500 ha) followed by pears and plums. Defra (2013) report that there are about 7000 hectares of commercial cider orchards; approximately a quarter are 'traditional orchards' and three-quarters are 'bush orchards'. Traditional orchards typically have open-grown trees (tree density of less than 150 trees per hectare), whilst bush orchards can have 600 trees per hectare. Both types of orchard have grass understoreys which need to be kept short to enable apple harvest. Grazing is practised in some traditional orchards, but the use of animals in mature bush orchards is less common.