Almost two decades ago, as a university student getting work experience on a farm in Cumbria, Simon Brown came across the Lleyn breed of sheep for the first time. It was an experience that has moulded his life as a sheep farmer.
"My main intention was to see how a big flock of Charollais were run on Brian Atkinson's farm near Penrith, where he had 1,000 head," says Simon, based at Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny. "But I was not long there when it became evident that it was the Lleyn that were really stealing the show for me.
"I was very impressed by their ease of lambing and mothering ability, and so I decided that I wanted to go for the Lleyn as the breed for me," he adds, remembering his time on the farm in 1997.
Simon was one of the first sheep farmers in the Republic of Ireland to import the Lleyn breed, which today has become the fastest growing breed in the UK and Ireland and is being described by many of the flock owners as "the breed for the future in this country".
"I imported 25 ewe lambs in 1998 and a further 25 the following year. I bought my first ram off Lionel Organ and he turned out to be a super ram and laid the foundation for my flock," he says.
His flock now consists of 280 Lleyn breeding ewes which are run alongside 100 Charollais ewes.
There has been some reduction in the size of the flock in recent years "to reduce the workload because I am also involved in other things", but the Lleyn remain the main stay of the sheep enterprise and will continue so into the future.
"I have no regrets for going for the Lleyn. For ease of management they are a very easy sheep to keep with low maintenance, and very efficient producers. They are good on the feet and easy to lamb - no problems - and good longevity in a prolific breed," he says.
The flock has a lambing down rate of 1.9 lambs per ewe.
"There is no meal fed if I can get away with it or as little as possible because it keeps down the cost of production which is important and they do quite well on the system," says Simon.
"A lot of sheep farmers are breeding their own replacement and they are buying a Lleyn ram and using him on the flock to breed replacements and the rest are bred to a terminal sire," he explains to emphasise the adaptability of the breed for crossing.
"I have found that crossing with the Charollais is a superb cross - using a Charollais ram on a Lleyn ewe, that produces great results.
"The commercial man should not be afraid of buying a pure bred Lleyn because they are purebred, as they are a purebred commercial breed," continues Simon.
"They are a big flock sheep, designed to be run in numbers and there is no requirement for fancy feeding because they are bred to perform well in hard conditions.
"The Lleyn suits my system better than any other sheep I can think of. The farm is fragmented, as many are in Ireland and I need a fit sound ewe that can lamb outside, have good feet and look after herself and her lambs on very little."
His system of lambing outside, keeping the flock on a low input system, wintering on fodder beet and silage or hay from January onwards, is proof of what can be achieved with the breed.