Meet The Member – Tom Buckland

Editor: In this article, we meet OSS society member Tom Buckland. 

Tom: Hi, I’m Tom, I live in South Wales, not far from Abergavenny. I’m 46 and I’m a dressage coach. I also own a small equestrian centre and smallholding. I have a passion for animals and currently keep horses, pygmy goats, ducks, chickens, guinea pigs, dogs, cats and, of course, sheep.

Editor: Can you tell us about your sheep keeping journey and how you first came to know about Ouessants? 

Tom: I wanted to keep sheep all my life. So when we bought our farm, this was my opportunity to get some. I’ve always had a passion for small animals – leading me to owning multiple miniature dachshunds, pygmy goats and pekins. So the Ouessant breed was a natural fit for me. We found some for sale locally, and went to pick them up in the horse lorry. The seller was away, so we had to collect them unaided – which was an interesting introduction to catching and handling sheep!

Editor: Do you keep any other sheep or have you come from a farming family? 

Tom: My main flock now are Dutch Spotted sheep, but the Ouessants remain an important part of the overall flock, and I plan to keep Ouessants forever! Strangely I’m not from a farming family – or equestrian – so this passion seems to have sprung up from nowhere. I’ve no idea where the fascination came from but from a very young age, I loved animals, the countryside and farming in general. I took every possible opportunity to go to agricultural shows and to see and learn about all sorts of farm animals and breeds. It was a good fit for my horse riding pursuits too – so animals became a really important part of my life.

Editor: What attracted you to the breed? Any specific likes or dislikes!? 

Tom: Initially, the size! But also because of where we live, the land isn’t fantastic – not that fertile – with poorer grass. So their hardiness really appealed to me. Plus, having horses – which are notoriously destructive to fields – I wanted a breed that would top the fields and tidy up after the horses. A lot of our land is also sloping and near-impossible to use a tractor on, so having these miniature sheep around seemed to be a perfect fit.

They have a really lovely temperament and are so easy to tame, manage and move around. And, since having them I’ve also found how easy Ouessants are in terms of lambing – they really do look after themselves.

In terms of dislikes – only that they’re not commercial sheep. If you’re breeding to sell, they’re not going to make you rich, and you need to know where to go to sell them. Thankfully I’ve had huge amounts of help from people within the society which makes keeping them much easier.

Editor: Can you share with us any sheep keeping experiences? 

Tom: I have sold a group of Ouessants we bred to a vineyard in South Wales – to top the grass between the vines, without damaging the high-up vines. People who have smallholdings, garden farmers, and those with tricky land have also really loved being able to keep Ouessants.

If you want to maintain breed standards, then you need to be your own harshest critic. The main things I look for in a Ouessant are a good width of horn (on rams), good leg and overall conformation, and a good mouth. Not every ram will make a good breeding ram. And I’ve learned that you need to keep them a bit longer to see how they mature to really decide if they have the potential to be a good stock ram. That’s not always easy when they often feel so much like pets, but it’s worth the effort and extra consideration.

Even though they’re generally a hardier breed, they’re still prone to all the other things bigger sheep can get. Fly strike was, for us, a real initiation by fire, and we very quickly had to learn that prevention is better than cure, and just how cruel nature can be sometimes.

Editor: Do you have anything else you’d like to share as a Ouessant keeper? 

Tom: On the sadder end of things, dog attacks are very much still a thing we all need to be aware of. Last year we had two dog attacks – we lost one Ouessant in the first attack, and the second attack wiped out my entire line of rams that I’d been breeding over several years. The local farming community really rallied around us, but it was an incredibly harrowing experience. Much like the fly strike issues, prevention is the best measure. I wouldn’t want people to be overly anxious about this kind of thing – but it’s worth considering in terms of where you keep your sheep, the quality and height of the fencing etc.

Editor: That’s horrific – what an awful situation for you all to go through. The trustees were very saddened to hear about this when it happened. 

Tom:  On a more positive note, the Ouessants have become local celebrities, which is lovely. So many locals come down to feed them, stroke them and take photos. It’s really nice to see people engaged by, and interested in, the Ouessant breed.

 

We would like to thank Tom very much for sharing a little about his life and his Ouessants. If you would like to do similar, please email: michelle.mcillmurray.trustee@ouessantsheep.org.uk 

 

 

 All photos: copyright Tom Buckland

Meet The Member – Tom Buckland