The Farm

Willowbrook Park Rare Breeds Farm was formed from 10 acres of the park, and is dedicated to fostering and breeding of some of the world’s less common and dwindling species of farm animals. We are proud to be members of the Rare BreedsConservation Society of New Zealand.

You can buy from us directly at:
or keep an eye on our Trademe page.

Highland Cattle...
It was a close competition between Highland Cattle and Belted Galloways for the farm, but in the end the large horns and the extra-long shaggy coats of this handsome Scottish breed tipped them into the lead.

The breed was developed in the Scottish Highlands and Western Isles, from two sets of stock, one originally black, and the other reddish. Breeding stock have been exported to the rest of the world, and once an 'extremely rare' breed, they are now only considered 'rare'. Highlands are bred in a variety of colours, which include black, brindled (red and brown tiger striping), red, yellow, and dun (a warm nut-brown). We breed dun coloured cattle.

 Although groups of cattle are generally called herds, a group of Highlands is known as a fold, or in Gaelic as kyloes. Highlands are known as a hardy breed due to the rugged nature of their native Scottish Highlands, with a high rainfall and strong winds. Highland cattle have been successfully established in many countries where winters are substantially colder than Scotland's such as central Europe and Canada. Their hair provides protection during the cold winters and their skill in browsing for food enables them to survive in steep mountain areas. They both graze and browse and eat plants which many other cattle avoid. The meat tends to be leaner than most beef because Highlands get most of their insulation from their thick shaggy hair rather than subcutaneous fat.

Worldwide popularity of Highland cattle has made breeding programmes very successful. Whilst the beef produced by pure-bred Highland cattle is exceptionally tender and of high flavour, modern butchery and shopping trends tend to demand a carcass and a cut of meat of a different character. In order to address this market, Highland beef producers often run commercial Highland suckler cows with a 'terminal' sire such as a Shorthorn or Limousin bull. We produce only pure-breed Highlands.

Our Highlands...

Our first highland calf...

Calves are usually available each January. Please email us at the above address to make further enquiries.

Wessex Saddleback Pigs
Meet Captain Jack and the girls...

The Wessex Saddleback is a striking looking black pig with a white belt around the body. The belt should include the front legs, and their ears should lop forwards. Historically, the Wessex developed alongside the Essex Saddleback, which differed only in having white hind feet and tail tip. There is some confusion about the origin of the Wessex Saddleback. Some sources state that it began as a cross from "the black breed of the New Forest" and "the Old English Sheeted breed", spreading through Hampshire in the 18th century. The breed is claimed to be one of the few British pig breeds not to have been affected by crossing with "Neapolitan" (oriental / Continental) pigs. If this is true, it may be one of those closest breeds to the landrace pigs which foraged in woods throughout Britain for centuries.

Over the course of the 20th century pig farming became more and more intensive. The more extensive systems to which the Wessex is suited declined, and the breed declined with them. Today it is now considered a rare breed. Meanwhile, the similarly coloured, but otherwise rather different Essex had followed a similar course, and in 1967 the two breeds were merged in an effort to prevent both from becoming extinct. This hybrid breed was called the British Saddleback. However, before amalgamation some Wessex Saddlebacks had been exported to other parts of the world, and the breed survives in small numbers in Australia and New Zealand. In Australia in 2008 there are less than 100 registered breeding sows, and they are considered critically endangered by the Rare Breeds Trust. In 2006 embryos and semen from Wessex Saddleback pigs were imported into Britain to re-establish the breed. 

The Wessex is both prolific and hardy, and does well as an outdoor pig – being bred originally as a baconer (specialist bacon producer).

Below: Our first Sow with her first litter...

and our second litter:

We have piglets available most of the year round. Captain Jack is also available for hire. Please email us at the above address to make a booking. Please note Cpt Jack is very popular, we currently have a 9 month waiting list for hire. We do plan on having a second boar available for hire in the near future.

Dorset Horn Sheep
The Dorset Horn, which was developed to its present form in the mid 1800s, is known for its all round qualities as a meat and wool producer.

Its chief distinction is its horns – large and curled – in both rams and ewes. Ewes with horns of this size and type are unique to the Dorset breed among modern domestic sheep, while the rams’ horns are even larger and tightly curled in “regimental mascot” style.

The Dorset Horn is a big sheep, hardy and very active. It boasts a capacious stomach and is an excellent “doer”; a ewe in good condition tends always to look as though she is in lamb and even the rams often look gravid. The fleece is of medium length, fine and very white, and the face and legs, clear of wool, are  also noticeably white and show another of the Dorset Horn’s distinguishing features – a pink nose and light coloured hooves. This pink and white look is particularly marked in lambs where it appears to be intensified. A young Dorset has "hoofs of mother-of-pearl and a nose like a fresh raspberry".

The breed’s other great distinction is the forwardness of the ewes. Dorset ewes can breed twice in one year although three lambings in two years is more usual. The lambing rate is good and they are excellent mothers with abundant milk.

The Dorset’s characteristics, the horns and the breeding rate, were bequeathed to it by a dominant ancestor – the now extremely rare Portland Sheep, found originally on and near Portland Island, very close to Dorchester. The Portland Sheep was first recorded in the sixteenth century and its origin is obscure, but it was spectacularly horned, and noteworthy because of its ability to lamb all year round – with up to four births in two years.

Dorset Horn sheep were imported into New Zealand in 1897 and several times in subsequent years, but did not prove very popular. A further importation in 1937 marked a period of breed increase, but numbers remained low. By the early 1990s they had dwindled less than five hundred in New Zealand and were also rare in their homeland, Great Britain.

They are an excellent breed on a smallholding, being extremely quiet and easily handled, as well as producing excellent meat and saleable fleeces. Our ewes lamb twice a year. Subsequently we usually have a few lambs available at most times.

Above and below: Our Dorset Horned Ram, Mr Bingley, and his Girls...

He was not very impressed at Lord Willoughby wanting to play...

Suffolk Sheep
Above: Our Suffolk Ram, Mr Darcy and his Girls...

The Suffolk sheep evolved from the mating of Norfolk Horn ewes with Southdown rams in the Bury St Edmunds area. They were known as Southdown Norfolks, or "Black faces." The Norfolk Horned sheep, now rare, were a wild and hardy breed. They were black-faced, light, fleeced sheep. Both sexes were horned. The upland regions of Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridge on the southeastern coast of England are very rugged and forage is sparse. It was this dry, cold and windy area in which the Norfolk breed adapted itself to traveling great distances for food, thereby developing a superbly muscular body.

Suffolks developed around the rotational system of farming in East Anglia, grazing on grass or clover in the summer. After weaning the ewes could be put on salt marshes or stubbles. Swedes, turnips or mangels were grazed in the winter in a very labour intensive system with a fresh area fenced off each day. Lambing was in February or March, outdoors in the fields with a hurdle shelter or in open yards surrounded by hurdles and straw.

They have an excellent lean meat ratio, large eye muscle, well-muscled legs, and succulent, well-textured meat.

Boer Goats
We no longer breed Boer Goats. If you are interested in Boer Goats please try the NZ Boer Goat Breeders Association  website. Here are some of our previous herd:

Above: Chestnut
Above: Bramble
Below: Bracken
Below: Bramble with Audrey and Arabella.
Below: Badger and Bailey

Indian Runner Ducks

Indian Runners are an unusual breed of domestic duck. They stand erect like penguins and, rather than waddle, they run. The females lay typically 150-200 eggs a year, or more depending whether they are from exhibition or utility strains.

They were found on the Indonesian Islands where they were 'walked' to market and were sold as both egg-layers and for their meat.

These ducks do not fly and only rarely form nests and incubate their own eggs. They run or walk, often dropping their eggs wherever they happen to be. We house  our birds over-night and collect their eggs for manual incubation to prevent them from being taken by other animals. Keeping the birds in sheds until well after dawn is reportedly the best solution, however we have a policy of free-ranging all animals at Willowbrook Farm.

Indian Runners love foraging. They also like swimming in ponds and streams, but they are likely to be preoccupied in running around grassy meadows looking for worms, slugs, even catching flies. They appreciate open spaces but are happy in gardens from which they cannot fly and where they make much less noise than other ducks: only the females quack. All drakes are limited to a hoarse whisper.

The ducks vary in weight between 1.4 and 2.3 kg (3-4 ½ lbs). Their height (from crown to tail tip) ranges from 50 cm (20 inches) in small females to about 66 cm (26 inches) in the taller males.

Runners eat less in the way of grain and pellet supplement than big table ducks. Of course, they should be given calcium and protein-rich food, especially the ducks during the extensive laying season.

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