‘Tessy has a large personality for a small dog and she takes her sheep duties to heart'

Country Smallholding|June 2020

‘Tessy has a large personality for a small dog and she takes her sheep duties to heart'
Joseph Waters and his family farm 60 acres in South Devon, where Tessy the Norfolk Terrier and ace ‘sheepdog’ is one of the ‘things’ the teenager couldn’t imagine living without
Joseph Waters

JOSEPH WATERS, his parents, Anne and Wayne, and his four siblings, Joshua, Amy, Robbie and Jacob, once lived on the flatlands of Lincolnshire where they ran a small animal veterinary business. Two years ago, though, they came to the conclusion that they wanted to produce their own food and return to a more simplistic way of life. The move to the opposite side of Britain, to Kingsbridge, came about for a variety of reasons, not least because the Waters had spent many happy holidays in South Devon.

“We fell in love with the stunning countryside, despite the feeling that you need to breath in as the car only just squeezes down lanes that seem to have been designed for a particularly thin horse pulling an equally small cart,” says Joseph, 16. Also, it was the only area that boasted a suitably perfect farm — the 60-acre Pollard’s Combe Farm, which proved to have the ideal balance of house and land.

“When we first saw the farm, set at the head of a shallow valley and benefitting from highly productive gently sloping pasture — and some not so gently sloping! — in November 2017 we had become rather twisted and sceptical individuals due to months of viewing farms not quite as described in the listing,” reveals Joseph. “We knew that there was something special about the place and we went back for a second viewing the following day.”

They moved in in July 2018 and immediately set about their self-sufficiency quest.

“We quickly bought some breeding ewes and store lambs. The latter gave us an immediate supply of lamb, while the ewes allowed us to breed our own for the following year. Some particularly friendly lambs were saved by mum, kept as breeding ewes and christened Else, PomPom, Maggie, and Pillow!”

Today the Waters family owns a mixture of sheep breeds — Texels, Suffolk, Lleyn, the rare Devon and Cornwall Longwools, as well as Suffolk mules.

“The Texels can fetch high prices at the sales and, with them, we’ve gone for quality over quantity. We have the third-highest EBV [measures performance and desirable traits] for a ram in the UK and have invested in top ewes,” says Joseph. “However, it may be a Texel to Lleyn cross that carries our meat business forward in future. Currently, it’s our mules that supply our meat boxes.”


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June 2020