After lambing at our barn at Ballingham, our flock of 200 Shropshire ewes then spend the rest of the spring and summer grazing 40 acres of bush orchards for the Ross on Wye Cider and Perry Company and a further 30 acres for the Pippin Trust, a charity dedicated to preserving historical cider apples.
Shropshire sheep were chosen as the breed we wanted, as they were known as orchard sheep and do not ‘bark’ trees as other breeds do. 7 years ago we took part in a field lab trial to support this theory. The aim of the trial was to establish the benefits of sheep grazing in commercial bush orchards. As the sheep graze they improve airflow under the canopy, clear the leaves and windfalls where ‘Apple Scab’ overwinters, thus reducing diesel inputs from mowing and the need for pesticide spraying.
It is now clear the trial has been a success and has attracted attention from other apple growers and the media. As well as benefiting the apple grower, producing finest quality lamb and mutton this relationship also enhances the sustainability of the Wye Valley environment and heritage.