Whitefaced Woodland

Whiteface Woodlands in field

Key Characteristics

The breed is very hardy and able to thrive on poor quality grazing and harsh terrain.  Ewes can produce lambs into their teens and are prolific for a hill breed. Lambing percentages vary depending on location - up to 150% on the hill and can reach 200% in a lowland situation, although this is exceptional. Lambs are small and active.  The breed has a narrow face and is usually very easy lambing. The ewes are milky and make excellent mothers.

History

  • The Whitefaced Woodland originated in the Pennines on the borders of Derbyshire and Yorkshire.
  • It originated from the blackfaced Linton type of mountain sheep. The Cheviot and the Merino were also used in the breed’s development.
  • The breed is now widespread and popular with both commercial farmers and smallholders.

Appearance

  • The Whitefaced Woodland is one of the largest hill breeds and is a powerful, well balanced sheep.
  • Ewes weigh around 60-70kg and rams can reach 130kg.
  • As the name suggests the face and head are white as are the legs.
  • Both ewes and rams are horned with rams having heavy spiraled horns that can on occasion grow too close to the head.
  • The tail is usually left undocked, especially in rams.

Uses

Cross Breeding

The draft ewes make good low input ewes for lowland farms and produce a good lamb when put to a terminal sire. The ewe can also be put to a longwool tup to produce a good mule-type ewe for the lowland farmer. A common commercial cross is a Texel ram on Whitefaced Woodland ewe– produces excellent butchers’ lambs and the ewe lambs are much in demand as halfbred ewes.

The ram is useful for putting size and conformation onto other hill breeds without losing any hardiness. Unlike many hill breed rams the Whitefaced Woodland ram can produce a good meat lamb that will grade well.

Meat

The purebred Whitefaced Woodland lamb will reach a deadweight of 18-20kg within five months and grades well. The breed is lean enough that it can be taken on to hogget age. A terminal sire on a Whitefaced Woodland ewe produces fast growing lambs which grade well.

Wool

Staple length- 15cm. Fleece weight- 2-3kg. Quality 44s-50s.

Conservation Grazing

A thrifty breed which copes with sparse conditions and is relatively tolerant of unproductive vegetation types, Whiteface Woodlands make good conservation grazing animals. 

Did you know?

An alternative name for the breed is the Penistone after the town that has held a sheep fair since 1699. Indeed the Whitefaced Woodland used to be two distinct groups: the Woodland sheep were known for their finer fleeces after the introduction of Merino blood by the Duke of Devonshire in the early 19th Century. In time the two groups amalgamated and formed the one breed.

Currently there are two pedigree registers of Whitefaced Woodland sheep - the RBST hold one register as part of its Combined Flock Book (CFB), and these are the sheep that are eligible for protection under the Breeds at Risk Register and for agricultural subsidies as part of other environmental and countryside stewardship schemes.  The Whitefaced Woodland Sheep Society also hold their own register, and transfers are possible between the two registers through the following routes: sheep with three full generations of pedigree in the Whitefaced Woodland Sheep Society register can be transferred into the CFB, and sheep may transfer from the CFB into the WWSS if they pass a formal inspection.

If you are considering purchasing Whitefaced Woodland Sheep for the first time please feel free to contact the RBST Field Officers for more information.

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust is the leading national charity working to conserve and protect the United Kingdom's rare native breeds of farm animals from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants and donations from the public to raise the £700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare UK native breeds of farm animals. Visit www.rbst.org.uk to see how you can help.

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