The Shropshire is medium sized lowland breed, with typical mature rams and ewes weighing 120kg and 80kg respectively. Shropshire Sheep have a clean soft black face and ears, with a covering of wool on the poll.
The Rams are robust, will work early in the season and make good crossing sires. The Ewes are excellent mothers with long productive lives, also being able to naturally cycle early for lambs from December onwards. The Lambs are vigorous, grow fast and produce a good meaty carcass. They can finish from grass alone. The Shropshire breed are also now well-known for being the “tree-friendly” breed. They are used widely to control grass and herbage in conifer plantations, orchards and other deciduous trees.
Originating from the hills of Shropshire in England in the 1840’s, the Shropshire breed was created by crossing local horned black faced sheep with sheep from nearby counties to create a hardy breed that remained suitable to thrive on the downs, but docile enough for the smaller enclosures of Shropshire.
The breed was officially recognised in the UK by the Royal Agricultural Society in 1859 and the Shropshire Sheep Breeders Association was formed in 1882. In 1855 the first sheep were exported to the U.S. with the American Shropshire Registry being formed in 1884. By the early 1900’s the Shropshire Sheep was the most numerous breed in the U.S. and there was demand around the world for Shropshire rams. 70% of lamb exported from Australia at this time was bred from Shropshire rams.
The international demand for Shropshire Sheep declined with the outbreak of war combined with export restrictions imposed due to foot and mouth epidemics in the UK. This led to a severe decline in numbers and by the 1970’s they were declared a rare breed in most countries.
The breed is now seeing a resurgence in numbers due to their tree friendly tendencies. The breed can be used in the cost-effective and eco-friendly way to manage of plantations
The Shropshire breed is used for meat, wool and for managing forestry and other tree plantations.
As a lowland breed the Shropshire is best suited to improved and semi improved grasslands. They do not graze on conifers and other trees and hence are well placed to control grass in newly established woodlands and orchards.