Cornwall

Rare wool success for south west farmer

Tom Kay with a Bowmont lamb
Image caption There are said to be only about 100 Bowmont sheep in the world

A South West farmer is celebrating the success of her growing flock of rare sheep.

Four years ago Lesley Prior was given the only Bowmont sheep in the world by a leading research institution in Aberdeen.

She has since turned the small flock of 30 of the rare breed into a healthy figure of 100.

A Cornish clothing company has helped Mrs Prior to increase numbers of the rare breed on her Devon farm.

The sheep on the Tiverton farm came from the Macaulay Institute. Scientists there had spent 25 years perfecting the Bowmont breed.

When their work was completed they gave the small stock to the Devon farmer.

Mrs Prior said: "I was entrusted with the breed and the breeding records. They wanted me to carry on their work as they knew how passionate I am."

'Fantastic sheep'

She admits it was a struggle until a chance meeting with a Cornish clothing representative four years ago. A partnership was born with Finisterre which in turn has enabled Mrs Prior's flock to grow.

Tom Kay, the founder of the company, said: "Bowmonts are the only British breed of sheep which produces wool that compares favourably to the finest Merino."

At 17.5 microns thick, Bowmont wool is classed in the same category as superfine Merino wool. It sells for up to £30 per kg, 20 times the price of normal wool.

The first clothing products using the rare wool have recently been made.

Mrs Prior added: "I do feel positive now. They are fantastic sheep. We have also had huge support from the Australian sheep farmers.

"They have been really helpful on the technical side. They are the ones I ask if I have a problem."

Mrs Prior is now searching for other farmers in the region prepared to take on the Bowmont sheep to continue her work.

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