Following the death of Duncan Raper in 2006, his daughter Linda agreed to run and financially restore Dunstarn, its land and buildings on behalf of her mother Ann. With research and watching a combination of TV programmes, 'One born every minute' and 'Lambing Live' she and daughter Nicky established their Welsh Kerry Hill sheep flock; lively, hardy and distinctively marked these sheep have excellent meat, fleeces and make good mothers. Nicky has extended this flock and in conjunction with a Dales farmer friend Amos, have initiated a breeding programme of Kerry Mules, a Kerry Hill/ Blue-faced Leicester cross in 2017. 2016 saw their first year of showing with success at all shows attended, with help and advice from May and Michael Rhodes (who's grandfather farmed in Cumbria and was the shepherd for Newton Rigg agricultural college).
Each year Nicky makes her own hay and haylage, 2018 has seen sparse growth and hay made down by 50% due to the adverse spring weather and enduring summer heat. Used in the winter to feed to her stock when inside for lambing; at Dunstarn only 1 cut is taken, the land does not use nitrogen to 'push' soil fertility. Small bales are labour intensive and time consuming to make, and must be stored in the Victorian farm buildings along with the fleeces awaiting spinning to later be made in to duvets.
The 2018 lambing crop is now complete, a difficult one month season with rain and low temperatures every single day.
By using modern technology ewes can be monitored remotely by camera to see when they are close to lambing and if assistance is required. A two hourly checkout throughout the night can be accomplished still wearing a nightie! No lambs lost to our local fox this year, but a devastating dog attack in the Autumn killing 7 in lamb ewes had to be overcome requiring renewal of our fenced boundary with a public right of way.
At Dunstarn we try to retain a tradtional low input farming presence. We use little medication but are not organic. Our gimmer lambs rest for their first season and are put in lamb as shearlings. We are as self sufficient as possible in our fodder purchases but do feed extra nuts pre and post lambing when stock need a boost for health purposes. We do not have the machinery or manpower to grow arable crops for fodder. We are committed to high animal welfare and adhere to a low stocking density; using minimal herbicides and fertiliser on our traditional wildflower meadowland which we cut for hay and haylage.
We shear some of our own sheep but use extra contracting help at busy times when the whole flock is sheared or hay is made. This is important both for animal health and to use the fleeces for making into hand knitting yarn or batters for wool bedcovers for our holiday lets www.update-holidays.co.uk.