Dartmoor Merino : Breed insight
Jessica Steer | The Rushlade Wool Company | 6th April 2023
The Dartmoor Merino is a breed unique to Rushlade*. We initially bought our Merino ewes when they were in lamb which gave us our 2017 crop of lambs. Fast forward to tupping time in the Autumn of 2017 and we hadn't yet found a suitable Merino ram to join our flock and so instead decided to experiment with a Whiteface Dartmoor Ram.
At this point the Merino ewes were still very new to our farming system and our farming system was very new to them! They were beginning to slowly acclimatise to Dartmoor living and being outside but still needed a lot of extra care and housing. We didn't find them to be great mothers at this stage and their milk supply wasn't fantastic. The Whiteface Dartmoor on the other hadn't was everything the merino wasn't, well suited to our ground, a fantastic mother and a milky ewe.
Lambing in 2018 was a success with some fabulous lambs, still clearly merino genetics but stronger and as the years went on and the 2018 lambs were ewes themselves we found them to be better mothers as well.
Another success of the breeding experiment, the Dartmoor Merinos have a lot of wool! The staple is much longer than the Merino ewe and whilst it is not quite as soft, a higher micron count, than the Merino it is still a very soft wool and fantastic to wear against the skin.
The staple of the Dartmoor Merino is generally about 15cm (We will always sell raw fleece with a clear description of staple length because there is variation) compared to a merino at about 8cm. It is glossier more lustrous fleece than the Merino and a creamier colour whilst also less prone to felt and more hardwearing making it easier to work with and more versatile.
The softness of the Dartmoor Merino fleece makes it a great choice if you are looking to create a agreement to wear against the skin such as a hat. I've also used it to make socks because it is more hardwearing than the merino but still offers the comfort I want as someone who is quite sensitive to wool!
In summary, the Dartmoor Merino is a fantastic all rounder!
We will have more Dartmoor Merino Raw fleece available in the summer months after shearing and sorting of the fleeces. We also have Merino yarn available in natural and hand dyed options, DK and Aran in our online store.
*We do not believe that there are any other examples of this breeding.