Jenni Henderson with goslings at Dumfries House
Jenni Henderson with goslings at Dumfries House

Animal magic in bid to preserve at risk creatures

New arrivals have appeared in all shapes and sizes during recent weeks at Dumfries House estate in Ayrshire.

For the past month, dozens of newborn lambs, calves, ducklings, turkeys, goslings and chicks have arrived at the estate’s Home Farm and Valentin’s Education Farm.

Education farmer Denise Richardson-Rowell, with Home Farm manager and husband John, has helped bring many of the bright young things into the world and is delighted by the rate of healthy new arrivals.

Denise, who has held her role for a year-and-a-half, said: ‘This is a busy but exciting time of year for us and for the hundreds of children visiting the education farm each month who can meet our new arrivals.

‘We are trying to increase numbers of these rare breeds, working closely with Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and it’s satisfying for the team on the farm to see all these newborns come into the world. We are positive about breeding all the animals across both farms.’

Dumfries House estate’s first newborn of 2018 arrived the day before its due date, a newborn lamb appearing on April 9 to spark a series of around 600 births delivered by ewes on the estate, which include pure and cross breeds of Scotch Mule, Cheviot, Suffolk, Border Leicester, and Lleyn as well as the pure rare breed Castlemilk Moorit.

Calving commenced on May 6, with 100 calves expected from the Beef Shorthorn, Whitebread Shorthorn and Vaynol herds.

Jenni Henderson with goslings at Dumfries House

Ten goslings from the rare breed of Shetland Geese have appeared so far, with more expected from the sitting mother goose. It is hoped that the number of newborn Shetland Ducks, a critically endangered species, will increase from the current tally of eight.

The distinctive Pied Crollwitzer turkeys, a favourite of school pupils visiting the education farm, have so far produced five newborns, while new Scotch Dumpy and Scotch Grey chicks, part of another two endangered species, are continuing to hatch at a positive rate.

Talking of the expected chicks, Denise said: ‘I have five incubators and they’re all full. Nineteen out of 20 hatched successfully during our recent Festival of Farming, which is a fantastic hatch rate and even more satisfying because hundreds of school pupils had the opportunity to witness the arrival of the new chicks.

‘It’s fantastic to see the young ones coming into the world and very gratifying to see the reaction on the children’s faces. We’ve had fantastic feedback from the school groups doing the farm tour and the workshops as well as those who participated in our inaugural Festival of Farming in April.’

It is hoped that the education farm’s pregnant Tamworth and Landrace pigs will deliver in late-summer and provide visiting school groups with the opportunity to meet a group of newborn piglets.

School visits to Valentin’s Education Farm can be arranged by emailing