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THE PURE-BRED OXFORD EWE



Oxford Down ewes (Photo courtesy of P R & J Quick & Sons)

The Oxford Down is the heaviest of all the Down breeds, and the second heaviest of all British breeds of sheep. The breed has developed a sheep of hardy constitution, noted for early maturity and quality meat, with strong bone and thick, fine wool with good length of staple. The Oxford produces the heaviest fleece of any of the Down breeds. It shears a valuable commercial fleece of long-staple, light-shrinking wool which is commonly used for hosiery, knitting yarns and felts.

The pure-bred Oxford Down ewe is found to be healthy, easily managed, docile and with good mothering ability. Partly because the Oxford Down is a large breed, the ewes are relatively easy to lamb and many will lamb unassisted. The breed is also noted for its very good, hard feet that need minimal attention. Ewes will naturally take the ram early in the season, making them suitable for early lamb production. The pure Oxford is a hardy animal and the pure-bred lamb, with good wool cover at birth, a good birthweight, and a strong instinct to suckle will withstand adverse conditions and generally does well.

The Oxford Down thrives equally well on both arable and grassland and in every climate, and finishes on a comparatively smaller quantity of food than almost any breed. It is a notable fact that although some breeds of sheep appear to thrive only in certain localities, Oxford Downs flourish everywhere and have been exported to nearly every country in the world.

The pure-bred Oxford Down ewe today has two principal functions:

  • Ram Breeding
    The ewes produce Oxford rams for crossing onto other breeds and crosses of ewe, with the Oxford cross lambs being used for prime lamb production.

  • Premium Prime Lamb Production
    The ewes produce pure Oxford lambs which are sold as prime lamb for premium markets. An example of this is the trade for prime lamb cuts sold direct to the public for the home freezer trade. The large, lean lambs which are produced allow larger joints with a great depth of lean meat to be prepared. Pure Oxford lambs are found to have excellent eating quality and sell well into premium markets such as private butchers, Farmers' Markets and breed-specific branded markets.