AN award-winning business specialising in lamb, hoggett and mutton is attracting orders from far and wide.

Dales Lamb is enjoying a major growth in demand from both the general public and the UK hospitality sector, including a major resurgence for its mutton.

The direct meat sales business – it also has a wholesale arm – was only established in November, 2017, by sheep farmers Tim Madgwick and Wayne Hutchinson, who is also a well-known livestock photographer.

Both breed sheep to supply Dales Lamb. All are Dales-reared and pasture-fed, providing quality cuts and some speciality lamb-based sausages. Sheep are taken every couple of weeks to ensure continuity of supply.

Tim, an old boy of Westminster College in London, worked in the music business as an A&R man, providing a link between the artist and the recording company or publisher, and later became an artist manager himself.

He still retains an involvement and is currently compiling several CD re-issues, including releases by The Associates, Catatonia and Republica.

He later grew an interest in sheep and farms around 40 acres of rented land at Gainford, where he runs a mixed breed flock comprising 60 per cent Herdwick and 40 per cent North of England Mule and Texel and achieves a lambing percentage of 177 per cent. He will be put 50 ewes and gimmers to the tup this November for late April lambing.

Wayne’s parents have an all-Swaledale sheep flock on a hill farm near Ravenstonedale in Cumbria. He and his wife, Karen, have 30 acres of land near Hawes, plus a couple of allotments – one above Askrigg, the other on Stainmore. They lamb 55 pure Swaledale ewes and 12 to 15 pure Texels at a lambing rate of about 175 per cent.

He said: "We try to put as many as possible of our Swale wethers through Dales Lamb and feel that the grass-based diet helps the taste, especially from the top ground, which enhances the flavour.

"We keep a few wethers for hogget/mutton and gelt ewes, unless good ones, are culled for mutton. As we just have a few ewes we can manage the system well and flock health is a priority. Happy sheep taste better!"

Tim also keeps and buys in Herdwick wether lambs to see through to mutton. His lambs go for meat first and then Wayne's Swaledale lambs cover the late season, with Dales Meat’s requirements supplemented from Wayne’s parents Swaledale flock as and when required.

Wayne also sells Swaledale rams at association sales, while extra females are sold for breeding. He and his wife like to show sheep, too, and they have been doing well at shows from the Royal Highland to Muker.

He has been a freelance livestock photographer for 25 years, working across Cumbria and Yorkshire and as far afield as the Mid-West to East Africa. He also does a lot of work for breed societies at shows and sales.

Both men had known each other for some years. Tim initially supplied friends and family with home-produced lamb, marketing it under the 'Tees View' label, but the two men’s joint passion for livestock production led to the launch of Dales Lamb.

The partnership is paying dividends, with demand on the up both locally and nationally. On average, Dales Lamb now sells six carcases a month - 50 per cent up on last year’s sales. Regular orders are now received from London and as far south as Kent.

The meat is packed in environmentally-friendly wool insulation material and delivered by courier. Sheep feed on permanent grass leys, which again reduces the carbon footprint. “We could actually say that we are virtually carbon neutral,” said Wayne.

Food miles are kept to a minimum with sheep from both flocks slaughtered and processed by either Simpsons of Cockfield, or MacIntyre Meats, small abattoirs less than five miles distant. The mutton is hung for ten days on average. Tim said: “It was very popular many years ago, then dropped out of fashion because it had a reputation for being fatty, which is true to some extent, though it very much depends on the breed.

“However, mutton has enjoyed a revival in recent years and we have found that both Herdwicks and Swaledales produce the best mutton. The meat has a wonderful texture and taste and is best cooked slowly over several hours. The mince is also good – for example, in shepherd’s pies.

"The public have certainly developed a taste for it, while some of the country’s top chefs now have dishes using our mutton on their menus."

In this year's Great Taste Awards their Swaledale Mutton Leg was awarded a top-rated three stars.

Dales Lamb, which is marketed all year round, does not have a website, but instead uses social media – both Facebook and Twitter pages - to promote and market the business, and take orders for produce.

See or @daleslamb, or call 0778 4187251.