A Crookes mum of two with a passion for The Good Life is doing her bit to stop the UK’s rarest breed of sheep become extinct.
The Borerays she rears on the Rivelin smallholding started as a hobby are swelling numbers of the endangered breed – the only one to be listed as critical by the UK Rare Breeds Survival Trust,
Fewer than 300 Boreray, which originated on the isle of St Kilda off Scotland, are known to exist – and 37 of them are in Sheffield.
Alison Twigg had always yearned for a farming life and persuaded mechanic husband Peter to start a smallholding 12 years ago.
Bit by bit the mini-farm has grown to 25 acres and chickens, geese, goats and ponies were joined by sheep six years ago.
“I liked the idea of keeping a rare breed going,” she explains. “At the time, there were fewer than 100 breeding female Borerays in the UK. I’m really pleased to have helped to increase the numbers.”
Three rams from a woman in Castleton and five ewes from the Rare Breeds Centre in Temple Newsam have produced a healthy flock. Alison reckons the breed are much smarter than the average – and taste better, too.
“They behave very differently to other sheep; they are quite naughty with strong characters. They’re definitely intelligent,” says Alison, who goes out to tend her animals at 6am every morning, getting back home at 7.30am to get children Molly, 11, and Archie, 8, off to school.
“We had our first Boreray joint three years ago. We’re not food connoisseurs but we knew straight away it was much tastier than regular lamb,” says Alison, 45. “It’s also much leaner; I think that’s because unlike other sheep, they are not greedy and never over-eat.
She started selling chops, joints and steaks to nearby Coppice House Farm Shop a few weeks ago.
Manager Mike Kilner says customers are snapping up the limited supply: “One said he hadn’t tasted lamb like it in 40 years.”