Little Bo Peep has found her sheep in Limerick

April Higgins with one of her 'Bo Peep' sheep

LOOKING at the flock of rare breed sheep that April Higgins and her fiancee, Alymer Power have gathered in Askeaton, you would be forgiven for thinking that she was a modern day version of Little Bo Peep.

In fact, when she spoke to the Limerick Post, she was wearing a huge yellow oilskin and a pair of very muddy wellies.

April fell in love with the breed, which are known as the ‘cutest sheep on earth’ the first time she saw one, but coming at a cost of about €4,000 for a single ewe, it was a while before she took the plunge and started a breeding flock.

To give them their proper name, Valaise Blacknose are a Swiss breed of sheep, which look – well, just like you would expect one of Bo Peep’s sheep to look.

Now the sheep-breeding pair have started their own flock at the Bo Peep farm and have seven ewes, two rams and, as lambing season continues, a family of little lambs.

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“Our Bo Peeps are for breeding and we have what we believe is the only pedigree sheep of the Swiss line in Ireland,” April told the Limerick Post.

While these adorable creatures will never see a cooking pot, they are also famed for their fleece, which weigh about 40 kilos each.

“They were bred for the cold of Switzerland so we shear them twice a year,” said April.

“At the moment, farmers often have to pay to get rid of fleeces so we were wondering what we might do.

“Then a friend of my dad’s who knits took one of the fleeces, treated it and carded it and made the most lovely sweater, with little black spots in roughly the same place the sheep would have black wool so this is another avenue we are exploring.”

The Bo Peeps are really a breeder’s interest but commercially, a purebred like the ones on the  Askeaton farm command a price of several thousand euro each.

“We don’t sell them at the mart. We meet the people who want to buy them because we want to be sure they know what they’re doing. They all have personalities and we get quite attached to them. There are often tears when one is sold and leaves,” said April.

All of the sheep have their own names and some “love gingerbread biscuits. If you’re out in the field they will come flying over to get a biscuit from you.”

The Bo Peep farm does not survive on the cute breeds alone and the enterprise is also involved in a mainstream flock of 120 to 140 pedigree Charolais, Texans and Hampshire Downs.

The farm specialises in pedigree breeding and everyone is busy at this time of year with lambing. April splits her time between the farm and her day job in agricultural pharmaceuticals.

“With Covid, we couldn’t invite people to come and see the farm but we have a school visit coming in a couple of weeks.

“We’re really hoping the marts will be open again this year so we can bring our Bo Peeps for everyone to see,” she said.