Rampisham Hill Farm in Hooke is farmed by David and Ruth Wilkins. They are this year’s winners of both the Melplash Agricultural Society’s medium sized flocks (51-300 ewes) competition and the Best Managed and cultivated farm (199 acres and under) and are justifiably proud of this achievement.
‘We are very pleased to have been awarded first place both for our flock and our farm management. Entering flock competitions that are judged on your farm means that the judge will inspect your whole flock and scrutinise your management and welfare practices against other farms and so there is no room for error. This is unlike the actual Melplash Show day in August where you will only put forward your best individual animals to compete against others. The farms competition, judged separately from the flock competition, allows the judge to examine the overall management of the farm, as well as your management of crops, livestock and the environment.
We farm at Rampisham Hill Farm in Hooke and sheep are our main enterprise. We have bred Dorset Down sheep for 12 years now, as they are very well suited to the low input grassland we have on our farm. Originally the Dorset Down sheep came from a cross of Hampshire Down and Southdown breeds to create a breed renowned for its ability to be an outstanding Terminal Sire, producing fast finishing lambs off grass alone. The Dorset Down sheep also has a very sought after fine fleece with an excellent crimp and lustre, making it a perfect choice for spinners and weavers. Although the Dorset Down is now on the Rare Breed Survival Trust rare breed watch list, it still makes an excellent crossing sire on commercial ewes.
We lamb in March each year, and sell the majority of the lambs for future breeding to both pedigree and commercial flocks. We enter a small number of shows each year, but our main focus is on selling grass reared performance recorded breeding ewes and rams that will work hard in a commercial environment. The Dorset Down carcass produces a really sweet tasting meat with lots of marbling and so those that are not up to standard for breeding are sold for meat privately from the farm and also to SJ Normans of Bradpole for distribution to local outlets. We are a big believer in ‘value added’ and so sell sheepskin rugs from our lambs, as well as selling all our fleeces to hand spinners across the UK, Europe and the USA.
Looking to the future, we are aiming to continue to improve our flock performance, as well as bringing up our two young daughters in a farming environment that we can be proud of. Supporting shows such as the Melplash Agricultural Show is vital for the local farming community to showcase to the wider region the importance of local farming to our economy and the environment.”
David and Ruth Wilkins will be presented with the two awards – J R B Bowditch Perpetual Cup for best Medium Flocks and the RM Gillingham Memorial Perpetual Challenge Cup for best small farm – by this year’s Society President, Tim Frost, at the Melplash Show on 22nd August 2019.