Ram a lam a ding dong! Rare sheep help conservation of birds at Welney

Manx ram and herd at Welney WWT

Manx ram and herd at Welney WWT - Credit: Archant

A herd of 87 Manx Loaghtan sheep have joined the cattle on the reserve at WWT Welney Wetland Centre to help with conservation grazing.

Manx ewe with Wayne Scott from Welney WWT

Manx ewe with Wayne Scott from Welney WWT - Credit: Archant

The sheep have an unusual appearance because the rams grow two pairs of horns.

The ewes also have horns but they are smaller and more delicate in appearance. The ram in the flock, Vladimir, has an impressive set of four horns, making him easy for visitors to spot.

Stockman Shaun O’Driscoll said: “Cattle and sheep have different ways of grazing. The two types of feeding complement each other to get the perfect conditions for wintering ducks like wigeon and the wading birds, like lapwing, that will breed here next spring.

“Cattle rip at the grasses with their tongues creating a mixture of short grasses and longer tussocks. The sheep nibble the shorter grasses to get them to just the right height for our wetland birds.”

Frogs Abbey Farmer Wayne Scott said: “We had found it difficult to find the right place to graze our livestock. This opportunity at WWT Welney was like Christmas had come early. I don’t have to split the herd between different locations, the fencing is safe for the sheep and it gives me the room to expand my flock.

“The sheep have settled in well and Vladimir has put on condition nicely since their arrival. I look forward to working with the team at WWT Welney going forward.”

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The Manx sheep originate from the Isle of Man and are a primitive breed that came close to extinction in the 1950s.

They are still on the rare breed watchlist but numbers are increasing and now they are helping many rare species of wetland wildlife.