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Thread: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

  1. #1
    romneymarsh
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    Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Has a traditional breed and it's connection to a specific area and farming system and it's contribution to the 'look' of the countryside have any place in the future development of the sheep sector?

    Is it purely selection on productive trait

    or does tradition, way of life , the visual appearance of the animal have any bearing?

    Further is our rich diversity of breeds and breeders alleigance to them , an asset or hinderance to development.

  2. #2
    clover
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by romneymarsh View Post
    Has a traditional breed and it's connection to a specific area and farming system and it's contribution to the 'look' of the countryside have any place in the future development of the sheep sector?

    Is it purely selection on productive trait

    or does tradition, way of life , the visual appearance of the animal have any bearing?

    Further is our rich diversity of breeds and breeders alleigance to them , an asset or hinderance to development.
    The type of sheep that makes the most profit will be the one that comes to predominate.In the lowground,different crosses have come and gone over the years and will continue to do so.Change in the hills will be slower.But with the current rapid ageeing of farmers,there may well be a need for a more rapid change.We may see a rapid decline in the number of sheep farmers as a laarge number all about the same age retire and are replaced by younger people who cant afford sentimental attachment.

  3. #3
    TaffyBhoy
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by clover View Post
    The type of sheep that makes the most profit will be the one that comes to predominate.In the lowground,different crosses have come and gone over the years and will continue to do so.Change in the hills will be slower.But with the current rapid ageeing of farmers,there may well be a need for a more rapid change.We may see a rapid decline in the number of sheep farmers as a laarge number all about the same age retire and are replaced by younger people who cant afford sentimental attachment.

    i'm not so sure sentiment is purely a charachteristic of the older generation. i think there will always be those who favour a particular breed other than a commercial/economical sense, whether it be what you've grown up with or perhaps a breed from the same part of the country as yourself.

  4. #4
    clover
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by TaffyBhoy View Post
    i'm not so sure sentiment is purely a charachteristic of the older generation. i think there will always be those who favour a particular breed other than a commercial/economical sense, whether it be what you've grown up with or perhaps a breed from the same part of the country as yourself.
    I agree.But many more will have to go where the money is.
    Should the demand for mule ewes reduce,due to composites or whatever,perhaps those keeping BF to produce a mule ewe lamb will decrease.

  5. #5
    TaffyBhoy
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by clover View Post
    I agree.But many more will have to go where the money is.
    Should the demand for mule ewes reduce,due to composites or whatever,perhaps those keeping BF to produce a mule ewe lamb will decrease.
    yes unfortunately you are correct. i'd hope (as we do) that a mix can be found, a commercial flock alongside a native breed.

  6. #6
    sheepwreck
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by clover View Post
    The type of sheep that makes the most profit will be the one that comes to predominate.In the lowground,different crosses have come and gone over the years and will continue to do so.Change in the hills will be slower.But with the current rapid ageeing of farmers,there may well be a need for a more rapid change.We may see a rapid decline in the number of sheep farmers as a laarge number all about the same age retire and are replaced by younger people who cant afford sentimental attachment.
    I am not entirely convinced that farmers are as old as is claimed. The average age is put at 58, but is that the average age of the owners of farm businesses, or the people who are doing the day-to-day grafting?
    Dad, at 70, as the owner is the farmer for statistical purposes, but the next generation(s) may be the real farmers and they are not included in the stats. As for sentimental attachement to a breed - have you ever been in the company of younger generation Blackface breeders? They'd rather cut their own heads off than breed anything else.

  7. #7
    sheepwreck
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    There are a couple of flocks of pure-bred Texels and Charollais in the Angus hills running alongside Blackfaces and they've adapted extremely well to the harsh conditions. Unfortunately neither breeder is interested in selling tups.

  8. #8
    Sh3pherdess
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    A lot of folk keep the same breed or cross they always have because they always have and they think the problems or otherwise of those breeds are normal.

  9. #9
    Tim W
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    It is probable that there will always be enthusiasts that keep the traditional breeds alive however breeds evolve and adapt to their environment and the commercial demands placed on them. Further it has to be recognised that many minority breeds have attributes that may not be important now but may well be of use to the commercial sector in the
    future

    There is also a place for quite sizable flocks of traditional breeds as they have a good marketing story /appeal to smalholders

    I keep a traditional breed (between 100 & 200 ewes) as well as a ruthlessly commercial type and whilst it is true that the commercial sheep physically out perform the traditional sheep by a long margin there is a large premium on the traditional ewes---previously when commercial ewes have been selling for 120 the traditional ewes have made 180

    So i don't think the vast majority of breeds will disapear

    The diversity of breeds is also a plus in the development of the sheep sector---the larger the gene pool the greater the potential

  10. #10
    ladycrofter
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Plenty of traditional breeds kept by BFFers for crossing with terminal sires or for production of xbred ewes, I got decent lambs from my Beltex x Shetland experiment and it suits my management system- the small size and low maintenance of the Shetlands, also known for producing good Chev x Shetland ewes. Don't think I have ever heard anyone speaking about keeping a breed just because they belong in that part of the country, it's more what works and people willing to try different things.

    But also we all have certain aspects of breeds that we just like the look of - the fantastic roman nose of a good Cheviot ram for instance - so I think sentiment will always be a part of farming for most people, whether they admit it or not. I don't think you could convert a Cheviot man to Suffolks easily for instance, regardless of EBV's.

    Tim W - just curious what trad breed you keep such a large flock of?

  11. #11
    Tim W
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    there is a book due out soon about sheep breeds and the landscapes they are adapted to/have helped create ---Philip Walling --counting sheep, the pastoral heritage of britain

    LC i keep Wiltshire Horns----large market to smallholders & direct meat marketing flocks and of course wool shedders. I would keep more but they just try my patience! (Had 280 once but am presently at @ 100 ewes)

  12. #12
    Inbye
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    It depends where you are farming.

    If you are farming really hard hill country you will struggle to go past the traditional hill breeds (cheviot/blackie/swaledale and other local hill sheep) as they are developed to run on a low input system in very tough conditions.

    In contrast, it is relatively easy to run any breed on a low input system on better land so you can take your pick from whatever breed you fancy; traditional or otherwise.

  13. #13
    sheepwreck
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by Sh3pherdess View Post
    A lot of folk keep the same breed or cross they always have because they always have and they think the problems or otherwise of those breeds are normal.
    +1 So true!

  14. #14
    Sh3pherdess
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by Inbye View Post
    It depends where you are farming.

    If you are farming really hard hill country you will struggle to go past the traditional hill breeds (cheviot/blackie/swaledale and other local hill sheep) as they are developed to run on a low input system in very tough conditions.

    In contrast, it is relatively easy to run any breed on a low input system on better land so you can take your pick from whatever breed you fancy; traditional or otherwise.
    Very good point inbye. It's like never feeding hay on a low input system. That's not going to work in Scotland with 6 weeks of snow cover (or even with no snow cover if there is no grass).

  15. #15
    Sh3pherdess
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by sheepwreck View Post
    +1 So true!
    The lambing I am at just now is a new place as sheep for the guy I am lambing for. I lambed for him before on Mules. The current sheep are appaling for many reasons and he keeps saying how great the mules were in comparison and I am thinking "really???". In fact I said as much today

  16. #16
    sheepwreck
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by ladycrofter View Post
    Plenty of traditional breeds kept by BFFers for crossing with terminal sires or for production of xbred ewes, I got decent lambs from my Beltex x Shetland experiment and it suits my management system- the small size and low maintenance of the Shetlands, also known for producing good Chev x Shetland ewes. Don't think I have ever heard anyone speaking about keeping a breed just because they belong in that part of the country, it's more what works and people willing to try different things.

    But also we all have certain aspects of breeds that we just like the look of - the fantastic roman nose of a good Cheviot ram for instance - so I think sentiment will always be a part of farming for most people, whether they admit it or not. I don't think you could convert a Cheviot man to Suffolks easily for instance, regardless of EBV's.

    Tim W - just curious what trad breed you keep such a large flock of?
    Beltex X Shetland - an interesting combination of genes! Were they faster than Beltex, or more laid-back than Shetlands? We did once think about putting the Beltex to Shetland ewes, but never got round to it. Did you keep some for breeding?

  17. #17
    ladycrofter
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by sheepwreck View Post
    Beltex X Shetland - an interesting combination of genes! Were they faster than Beltex, or more laid-back than Shetlands? We did once think about putting the Beltex to Shetland ewes, but never got round to it. Did you keep some for breeding?
    Wish I had kept last years' ewe lambs, they were very tidy but put to sale just to see what like. Will be keepng all females back this year. Like chunky white Shetlands, cheeky wee faces and big back ends.

    I don't see how a breed like Beltex could survive on the hill, they are not very agile, in fact my ram has that wierd swinging gate I guess due to the double muscling. OTOH his wool is so tight you can hardly get your hand in. Kept back two ewe lambs off my Chev x Shetland and they have his super thick dense wool. He gets so hot in the summer I have to make sure he has a lot of shade.

  18. #18
    Sh3pherdess
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    I wintered my beltex on really poor ground and he is still alive

    I feel if he cannot thrive on the ground I am finishing lambs on then he's not worth having.

    I also wonder if being too fat could be a big enemy of the beltex and their longevity...

  19. #19
    Nithsdale farmer
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by ladycrofter View Post
    Wish I had kept last years' ewe lambs, they were very tidy but put to sale just to see what like. Will be keepng all females back this year. Like chunky white Shetlands, cheeky wee faces and big back ends.

    I don't see how a breed like Beltex could survive on the hill, they are not very agile, in fact my ram has that wierd swinging gate I guess due to the double muscling. OTOH his wool is so tight you can hardly get your hand in. Kept back two ewe lambs off my Chev x Shetland and they have his super thick dense wool. He gets so hot in the summer I have to make sure he has a lot of shade.
    Sound good lambs LC - only downside i could possibly see is (for a commercial flock) the lambs would maybe be abit slow getting to the 'golden' 40kg mark for killing

  20. #20
    TaffyBhoy
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim W View Post
    It is probable that there will always be enthusiasts that keep the traditional breeds alive however breeds evolve and adapt to their environment and the commercial demands placed on them. Further it has to be recognised that many minority breeds have attributes that may not be important now but may well be of use to the commercial sector in the
    future

    There is also a place for quite sizable flocks of traditional breeds as they have a good marketing story /appeal to smalholders

    I keep a traditional breed (between 100 & 200 ewes) as well as a ruthlessly commercial type and whilst it is true that the commercial sheep physically out perform the traditional sheep by a long margin there is a large premium on the traditional ewes---previously when commercial ewes have been selling for 120 the traditional ewes have made 180

    So i don't think the vast majority of breeds will disapear

    The diversity of breeds is also a plus in the development of the sheep sector---the larger the gene pool the greater the potential
    a good example of selling in the right places to the right buyers, i guess.

  21. #21
    Nithsdale farmer
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by Sh3pherdess View Post
    I wintered my beltex on really poor ground and he is still alive

    I feel if he cannot thrive on the ground I am finishing lambs on then he's not worth having.

    I also wonder if being too fat could be a big enemy of the beltex and their longevity...

    That surely is the single most important thing about any breed you work with - if the rams dont do on your ground without having concs shovelled over their throats then there is absoloutley no point keeping them!


    IMO traditional breeds have their place, the only ones i struggle with are blackies and swales (and Herdwicks - but thats for another day ). If the Mules fall out of favour, which they are compared to 15 years ago, then there really isnt much use for the blackie personally no one breed can survive by producing only one commercial product.
    Also believe more importantly to traditional breeds, the way forward is NATIVE breeds - not specifically a scottish ewe working in scotland, for example. But a UK ewe working anywhare within the UK. We have everything here at our disposal already to produce any breed/type of ewe which will be the next world leader in the sheep industry....... even if it does have to go to New Zealand to become good first someone somewhare just needs to have the vision and dedication to find it/stabilise it.

  22. #22
    Sh3pherdess
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by Nithsdale farmer View Post
    That surely is the single most important thing about any breed you work with - if the rams dont do on your ground without having concs shovelled over their throats then there is absoloutley no point keeping them!
    I agree. Speaking to a chap today who is mulling over a big change and he says to me "the thing that annoys me about Suffolk tups is they can be on good grass all summer yet need 2 months of feed to get them ready for tup time"
    Me "is that the only thing that annoys you about them I can't think of anything that doesn't"
    Him "yes well they are worth more at the end of the day"
    Me "yes but the lambs cost more to finish, harder lambings for the ewes and what about all the lambs you lose because they aren't born with the brains to breathe, not to mention the tups feet and ability to die on a whim"
    Him"hmmmm"

    [shep feels slightly concerned this could be a wallyesk post ]

  23. #23
    Nithsdale farmer
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by Sh3pherdess View Post
    I agree. Speaking to a chap today who is mulling over a big change and he says to me "the thing that annoys me about Suffolk tups is they can be on good grass all summer yet need 2 months of feed to get them ready for tup time"
    Me "is that the only thing that annoys you about them I can't think of anything that doesn't"
    Him "yes well they are worth more at the end of the day"
    Me "yes but the lambs cost more to finish, harder lambings for the ewes and what about all the lambs you lose because they aren't born with the brains to breathe, not to mention the tups feet and ability to die on a whim"
    Him"hmmmm"

    [shep feels slightly concerned this could be a wallyesk post ]



    Did you stop to scratch your chin and ponder this thought for a few moment before leaning back in your chair, shouting through to..... whos your other half?


  24. #24
    ladycrofter
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by Sh3pherdess View Post
    I also wonder if being too fat could be a big enemy of the beltex and their longevity...
    Yes - they seem to really put on the meat, mine got no food over winter, just some hay with the ewes and is still a porker, that is maybe the key to keeping them alive on hill ground. I would say he has never gone below what I would consider CS4 in a cow. Mind you it was a mild winter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nithsdale farmer View Post
    Sound good lambs LC - only downside i could possibly see is (for a commercial flock) the lambs would maybe be abit slow getting to the 'golden' 40kg mark for killing
    Yes certainly not going to finish off grass at 60 days or whatever ridiculous claims are sometimes made (okay sarcasm alert there). Need to lamb earlier, or keep on a bit, no scales here but yardman said they looked 35kg (ram lambs born April sold October). What would it take to get another 5kg? No idea.

    Ewe lambs sold early Feb, only then getting to the same point, hay only. So horses for courses. Possible problem re: early finishing would be lightweight dam and stumpy ram. OTOH excellent hybrid vigour and that has to have some cost benefit, plus running ewes for 7-8 years.

    Found when experimenting with meat chickens that super fast growth = NO immune system, so there has to be a balance. For me, two extremes work. As in 2+2 = 22. :lolk:

  25. #25
    Sh3pherdess
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by Nithsdale farmer View Post


    Did you stop to scratch your chin and ponder this thought for a few moment before leaning back in your chair, shouting through to..... whos your other half?


    Aww heck

  26. #26
    Nithsdale farmer
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by ladycrofter View Post
    Yes - they seem to really put on the meat, mine got no food over winter, just some hay with the ewes and is still a porker, that is maybe the key to keeping them alive on hill ground. I would say he has never gone below what I would consider CS4 in a cow. Mind you it was a mild winter.



    Yes certainly not going to finish off grass at 60 days or whatever ridiculous claims are sometimes made (okay sarcasm alert there). Need to lamb earlier, or keep on a bit, no scales here but yardman said they looked 35kg (ram lambs born April sold October). What would it take to get another 5kg? No idea.

    Ewe lambs sold early Feb, only then getting to the same point, hay only. So horses for courses. Possible problem re: early finishing would be lightweight dam and stumpy ram. OTOH excellent hybrid vigour and that has to have some cost benefit, plus running ewes for 7-8 years.

    Found when experimenting with meat chickens that super fast growth = NO immune system, so there has to be a balance. For me, two extremes work. As in 2+2 = 22. :lolk:
    Must say the beltex is an exceptionally easy fleshener IME.

    Yeah i did think small ewe put to an equally small ram = slow growing lambs. But it maybe all depends on your targets. March outdoor lambing i want first lambs gone at end of july or start of augaust and they MUST be over 40kg (42kg is the golden weight i aim for).

    well if they grow like stink, they will be hung up before they can ever catch anything

  27. #27
    Sh3pherdess
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by ladycrofter View Post
    Yes - they seem to really put on the meat, mine got no food over winter, just some hay with the ewes and is still a porker, that is maybe the key to keeping them alive on hill ground. I would say he has never gone below what I would consider CS4 in a cow. Mind you it was a mild winter.



    Yes certainly not going to finish off grass at 60 days or whatever ridiculous claims are sometimes made (okay sarcasm alert there). Need to lamb earlier, or keep on a bit, no scales here but yardman said they looked 35kg (ram lambs born April sold October). What would it take to get another 5kg? No idea.

    Ewe lambs sold early Feb, only then getting to the same point, hay only. So horses for courses. Possible problem re: early finishing would be lightweight dam and stumpy ram. OTOH excellent hybrid vigour and that has to have some cost benefit, plus running ewes for 7-8 years.

    Found when experimenting with meat chickens that super fast growth = NO immune system, so there has to be a balance. For me, two extremes work. As in 2+2 = 22. :lolk:
    I sell most of my Cheviot Shetland wethers off grass at 38-40kgs Oct. I think beltexes need to be kept longer to get the premium for them.

    Mine weigh like bricks already tho.

    I personally don't see the point of a beltex x as a ewe but a beltex Shetland as a terminal lamb is obvious. Shetlands are low input and will lamb beltex lambs no problem and the beltex puts dramatic conformation on what is a hatrack by commercial standards at the best of times. I would say you'd keep them til May and let them finish on the spring grass to get the benefits of the cross. You can keep double the number of shetlands maybe three times, to a commercial ewe. If your farm is fenced for mice

  28. #28
    ladycrofter
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by Nithsdale farmer View Post
    Must say the beltex is an exceptionally easy fleshener IME.

    Yeah i did think small ewe put to an equally small ram = slow growing lambs. But it maybe all depends on your targets. March outdoor lambing i want first lambs gone at end of july or start of augaust and they MUST be over 40kg (42kg is the golden weight i aim for).

    well if they grow like stink, they will be hung up before they can ever catch anything
    Good point nithsdale, these did grow OUT like stink, but the UP part was a bit slower :lolk:. I have never seen lambs get up so quickly though.

  29. #29
    Tim W
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by TaffyBhoy View Post
    a good example of selling in the right places to the right buyers, i guess.
    Its a bit more than that---this is the going price for this traditional breed, supply and demand like all other markets

  30. #30
    Jem
    Guest

    Re: Traditional sheep breeds and future development of UK sheep sector

    Quote Originally Posted by Nithsdale farmer View Post
    Must say the beltex is an exceptionally easy fleshener IME.

    Yeah i did think small ewe put to an equally small ram = slow growing lambs. But it maybe all depends on your targets. March outdoor lambing i want first lambs gone at end of july or start of augaust and they MUST be over 40kg (42kg is the golden weight i aim for).
    When are you folks going to learn? The killing out percentage is so good with a Beltex that you don't need it to get to 40 kg to make a decent carcase?
    Loving your wallyesk posts by the way.

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