THE BRITISH VENDÉEN
The head shows much character
and presence. The head and cheeks will carry wool. The ears shall be large and
fine. The face will be brown and there will be no wool on the face. The nose
will be reasonably long and the muzzle broad. The body will be long with a broad
back, well sprung ribs, a strong loin and a deep gigot. The legs will be of
medium bone and lightly covered. The Vendeen is not a long legged breed, but it
should not be too close to the ground.
The fleece is of excellent quality, being of a fine down type and very uniform in fibre length, with no coarse kempy wool on the lower part of the hind quarters. The staple length is 5 to 7 cm and the average UK fleece weighs 3.5kg per sheep.
The ewe is similar to the ram except for the head which should be feminine and stylish.
The adult male weighs between 110 and 140kg, the adult female weighs between 80 and 110kg.
A normal body weight for adult males is 95 to 120kg and for females 65 to 80kg. Prolificacy for adult ewes is normally in excess of 200% and for ewe lambs 180%, breeding from ewe lambs does not lead to a reduction in subsequent lambing rates in most cases. Ewes and many of their crosses, breed naturally out of season without sponging, tups are eager workers.
The breed is easily managed and is suitable for most management systems. The sheep will adapt to extensive systems on poor land, there are several flocks kept at 1,000 feet. or they can be more intensively managed on good lowland pasture, they are also suitable for indoor rearing. Under some systems it is possible to have three crops of lambs in two years. The ewes and rams are normally docile adding to the ease of management.
Ewes usually lamb easily on their own, lambing problems are uncommon, and the newborn lamb is eager to live, they "get up and grow". The normal birth weight of lambs is 4 to 6kg.
History of the Breed
The Vendéen breed has been known in the Vendee region of France for many hundreds of years and is said to owe some of its blood to sheep saved from the wrecks of Spanish galleons at the time of the Armada. More definite links were established with the importation of Southdown sheep to the Vendee a little over a century ago. Recently sheep have been selected to provide lean meat as demanded by the French market. Further selection has been made in recent years for hardiness and prolificacy.
The first importation into Britain was in 1981 (at about which time the British Vendéen Sheep Society was formed) when the first ewe lambs to be imported all produced twins.
Main Purpose of the Breed
The main purpose of the Vendéen is for the production of high quality lean meat of an excellent flavour from both pure and crossbred sheep.
Tups are used on a wide variety of breeds (including pedigree Vendéens) to produce a carcass of good conformation (E, U, or R) with a fat class of 3L or better in most cases at weights of normally between 16 to 20kg but even up to 25kg the carcass will not be over fat. Lambs are normally ready for market by ten to fifteen weeks of age with little additional feeding.