In the lead up to a big date Tessa Bustance is doing what many young women do: improving appearances with a wash and even a dye.
Except when it comes to Tessa, it’s her pedigree Eaubrink Flock Texel sheep she is pampering in the days prior to showing them.
She may be just 20 but Tessa, who keeps her sheep in Moulton, is securing a reputation for her flock that is impressing her older, mainly male, pedigree sheep breeding colleagues.
The promise was there early on when she achieved a second prize on her first attempt at showing a ewe at a small event in 2010.
In 2011, that ewe’s first ewe lamb emerged from its first small show as champion and in 2012 Tessa was again enjoying success when the ewe lamb brought home a reserve champion and then champion’s rosette at summer shows.
However, last year Tessa reduced mum Fiona Bustance and step dad Andrew Vernon to tears of pride when she achieved a much bigger result.
That same ewe lamb, by then a shearling ewe and a favourite nicknamed The Tart, was named supreme champion Texel at both the Lincoln and Royal Norfolk shows.
“This is up against pedigree breeders in all the Midlands and all of Yorkshire at the Lincoln show and at Norfolk it is breeders across the south-east,” said Andrew, who added: I was very overwhelmed and very, very proud.”
The memory of that is enough to reduce Fiona to tears once more, and Tessa confirms: “She stands there crying at the edge of the ring.”
As a shepherdess, life for Tessa is hard work, particularly during lambing when she takes her turn at checking the ewes every two to three hours during the night.
There aren’t so many shepherdesses, but Andrew says those that are keen are often good, their patience, small hands for lambing and intuition helping them succeed.
It was he who introduced Tessa to working with sheep when she was just eight or nine when she would help with his commercial flock.
A couple of years later, when she was showing signs of being very interested, Tessa was allowed to keep any orphan and third triplet ewes that she bottle fed.
That was the start of her own commercial flock, which helped fund the pedigree Texels.
Tessa’s Eaubrink Texels – named after her grandfather’s Norfolk farm – have now grown to a flock of 45 ewes, plus last year’s lambs.
The breed is pure white, especially when Tessa is preparing for a show and washes their fleece.
Finally, two to three days before the show, their wool is sprayed with dye – biscuit bloom is Tessa’s preferred colour – to emphasise their head and body shape and hopefully win the judges’ votes.