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TEXEL

ISSUE 7 SPRING 2017

Primestock A Texel Sheep Society Publication

Investing for future sustainability Texels suit milking flock

Maximising lamb values Texels leave versatile lamb crop

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“The breed’s successful growth from grass without the need for supplementary feed makes them an ideal choice for a wide variety of farming systems the length and breadth of the UK. ”

“Texels are capable of adding value in a wide range of locations and situations, with Texel prime lambs, store lambs and breeding ewes all equally well sought after.” Acknowledgement The Society thanks all those who have contributed in the creation of this production. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy of information contained within the Texel Sheep Society publication no responsibility can be accepted for any errors or omissions or any reliance on use of the information to readers. All prices and information is correct at time of going to press.

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#addtexeladdvalue

Texels adapt and evolve to suit market demands Once again the UK sheep farming sector finds itself in a state of flux, with the future looking possibly less certain than at any time in the 45 years since Texels first arrived in this country. The historic vote to leave the EU has without doubt cast a long shadow over the farming industry and posed a great many questions around both agricultural support payments and also future international trading arrangements. Sheep farming in the UK has long relied upon a vibrant export market to ensure a competitive marketplace and some 40% of all the UK’s prime lambs find their way out of the country, mainly to Europe. The nature of any future access to this market is currently up in the air, but one thing which is certain is that sheep farmers will once again adapt and evolve to suit the market and the economic climate they find themselves in. Much like resilient sheep farmers the Texel breed itself has constantly adapted and evolved to suit conditions as it has spread across the UK and moved from the lowlands to the uplands. That evolution is as important and ongoing today as at any time in the breed’s history. As a result, the Society is currently engaged with a number of research and development projects aimed at providing commercial sheep producers with the genetics they need to remain sustainable and profitable long in to the future. Investing in the latest technologies and collecting methods to analyse previously hard to measure traits is enabling the Society to drive the UK sheep industry from the front and in time deliver sheep with estimated breeding values for disease resilience, carcass quality and meat eating quality. Meanwhile, Texel sired prime lambs continue to be in demand from both liveweight and deadweight buyers and earn significant premiums above the market average in all parts of the country. This latent demand is driven by the breed’s unrivalled ability to provide quick growing lambs which can be slaughtered at a range of weights and deliver evenly fleshed carcasses which meet modern market requirements. Importantly, the breed’s successful growth from grass without the need for supplementary feed makes them an ideal choice for a wide variety of farming systems the length and breadth of the UK. Texels are capable of adding value in a wide range of locations and situations, with Texel prime lambs, store lambs and breeding ewes all equally well sought after.

John John Yates Chief Executive #addtexeladdvalue

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Texels suit as terminal and maternal sire in upland flock David and Rosemarie Cornthwaite, Lockerbie, Dumfires and Galloway

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arming 2250 upland acres in the south of Scotland, David and Rosemarie Cornthwaite find Texel cross ewes to be an ideal female to cope with their type of land and system, while their Texel prime lambs are perfect for the butchers’ market. The couple manage an extensive set-up within Balgray Estate and are based at Balgray Hill, Lockerbie, having taken on the tenancy in 1991. At that time, the farm comprised 1150 acres, but over the years they have gradually doubled that tally by taking on additional ground from neighbouring farms. Now, alongside three full-time staff, they run 370 commercial cows, with the calves sold as stores, 40 pure Limousins and 40 pure Galloways, plus a flock of about 2000 sheep, which operate on a stratified system, starting at the top with Lairg-type Cheviots and Blackface ewes. “Half the 280 Cheviots and 220 Blackfaces are bred pure, with the rest put to Bluefaced Leicesters and we then keep those Cheviot Mule and Scotch Mule females, which are put to Texels.

“Those Texel cross ewes which number about 550 and 380 hoggs, are then crossed to produce prime lambs,” explains David. Most female replacements are homebred, with just 50 Cheviot gimmers bought in 2016 to boost numbers. The Cornthwaites also buy in tups each year, with Zwartbles bought for use as teasers alongside Bluefaced Leicesters, Blackfaces and Beltex. Texel tups, meanwhile, are homebred from the farm’s own small flock. “We unfortunately lost all our sheep – bar those away at wintering – during the 2001 foot-and-mouth cull and when we were re-

stocking we decided it made sense to start up our own Texel flock, so we could breed our own tups to use. We bought two gimmers from Andy Barr, Parkhouse, and built up the numbers from there,” explains David. “Breeding our own has meant a big financial saving for us – we’ve found they tend to last longer and have less feet and fertility problems, because they’ve not been pushed on for a sale.” The tups go out to work on 2 November and their marker crayon colour is changed every week, allowing David and Rosemarie to put the ewes in order for coming into the shed at lambing time, as they cannot all be housed at once. “Three to four weeks prior to lambing, the ewes receive ewe rolls from a snacker, depending on their condition and they get Fairtrace boluses before tupping and before lambing. We give extra copper to all of the ewes, other than the Texels,” explains Rosemarie.

Texel cross lambs leave the best weights of all lambs at Balgray for the Cornthwaite family.

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She describes the lambing at Balgray as a ‘military operation’, but it has to be just that, with about 2000 sheep lambing inside, within 19 to 21 days. “We put the ewes in pens of 50 to lamb and then into individual pens for 24 hours. From there, they either go straight back outside, or into a smaller group for another night, when we think they need it,” says Rosemarie. “The ewes are wormed and lambs ringed, marked and vaccinated for orf, all within the first 24 hours and then they’re not back in again until the beginning of June for worming. We also earmark any good ewe lambs out of problem free ewes at birth, with these being the ones we’ll keep for breeding.” It’s all hands on deck at lambing time and the team brings in extra help from extended family and students. They work a shift system, with David in charge through the day and Rosemarie through the night. “We normally have between 90-110 ewes lambing each day, so it’s non-stop really. When David finishes his day shift and heads for a sleep, we like to have at least 60 empty pens to see us through the night. “We have our own system within the lambing shed, for keeping everyone informed, which works well with the rota and it’s also good for students that haven’t been before. The pens are all numbered and any that are in need of special attention get blue string tied onto the gate, so they are easily spotted. We also have sheets of card on which we note down pen numbers of sheep ready to go out and then they are crossed off as they’re put out,” explains Rosemarie. Penning the singles next to the triplets makes ‘twinning on’ an easier process, and Rosemarie says they try to send every ewe capable of rearing twins out with two lambs. “We lamb singles onto plastic bags, in order to catch the lambing fluid, and this works great for twinning on another lamb, which we do a lot of. That said, if a ewe can cope with three, then we’ll leave them with her – and with plenty of milk, a lot of the Texel cross ewes can manage three fine. Likewise, the Texel hoggs can often cope with twins.” With so little shelter on the farm, the Cornthwaites say they watch the weather forecast ‘like hawks’ and will move the ewes and lambs to the fields with the most shelter if need be. They also send the lambs out with polythene jackets, which they have found to make a huge difference.

The ewes and lambs remain in the batches that they are put out in, with prime lambs sold straight off grass from early July and throughout the summer (the last few are finished on home-grown rape). Texel, Beltex and Cheviot lambs are all sold to Vivers, usually weighing between 20.5kg and 20.9kg deadweight. Last year’s lambs averaged £79 across the board, including Blackfaces and Mules. “The hoggs and the biggest of the Texel ewes go to a Beltex, but most go to the Texel – the Texel cross lambs have the best weights of all the lambs and they are perfect for the butchers’ market we’re targeting,” says David. For the past few years, some Texel cross hoggs have been sold with lambs at foot, in May, at Bentham, Penrith, Wigton and Carlisle markets. The number that they sell varies, depending on the trade and how many they need to keep for breeding. David explains: “The trade last year wasn’t so good; we averaged £152 per unit, but the year before that they were £186 and the year before that they were £199 – that’s farming for you!” With the size of the farm and its lack of shelter, it’s important that the breeding females are fit and for that reason the Cornthwaites tend to cull hard and keep their flock young.

“Our ewes have to be fairly hardy and they need to have good locomotion. The Texel crosses fit that description for us – they keep their condition well and are as prolific as we need them to be. They’re also worth a lot more at the other end, as cull ewes,” says David. The Cornthwaites have never been afraid to be flexible and adapt their system, depending on the current situation and changing markets and that’s the mindset that they take with them for the coming years. “Our main aim is to generate as good a quality product as we can and as long as we remain focused on that, we’ll hopefully tackle whatever the future holds for farming,” says David. “We have good staff that we can rely on, so we’re really lucky. We all have a coffee together each morning and discuss what’s happening and what needs to be done and I think that is so important – good communication is vital in any business,” adds Rosemarie.

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Texel cross females are in strong demand from Dunstall Estate.

Versatility gives the edge in the Midlands Simon Clarke, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire

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reduction in arable acreage and a focus on sheep means Simon Clarke’s Dunstall Estate is relying increasingly on Texel genetics to forge its future and maximise income.

Currently lambing 1200 ewes, the intention is to increase numbers to 1500 ewes in the next 12-18 months to match a reduction in the farm’s arable enterprise as cropping ground is converted to grassland. “We farm a total of 1050 acres in hand, but the arable enterprise was always just too small to compete, we couldn’t justify spending the money on kit which larger units could and our ground isn’t

the best suited to arable. The smaller arable acreage we have now is all contracted out, allowing a focus on our livestock enterprises, with 80 suckler cows run alongside the sheep flock.” Mr Clarke says expanding the sheep flock is the best way to get the most from the farm without expending significant amounts of capital and fits with the farm’s existing infrastructure and available labour. “I don’t employ a full time shepherd, having a contract shepherd for the day to day management and calling in extra labour when required for large handling jobs, such as drenching or weaning. “This means we tend to organise the flock management in to blocks of tasks, putting aside two days at a time to do the necessary job whether that is drenching, applying blowfly preventatives or vaccinating,” he explains.

Split 50:50 between North Country Mules and Cheviot Mules the flock is tupped exclusively with Texel rams bred in the farm’s own Dunstall pedigree flock, with the aim of producing naturally fleshed rams from lower inputs. “I’m aiming to breed neat, easy fleshing rams without excessive feeding and trying to avoid excessive head and bone. We sell a small number of rams privately from home as well as groups of shearling ewes, but largely focus on breeding the right sort of ram for our own use.” Texels give us a versatile lamb crop, says Simon Clarke.

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Tups are turned out in early November for an April start to lambing, with the Cheviot Mules requiring a little more flushing

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The Estate aims to sell more finished lambs in future as grassland is improved.

to achieve a desirable lambing percentage, says Mr Clarke. “We generally scan the North Country Mules at about 200% and the Cheviot Mules at 190%. Some may ask why we run the Cheviot Mules if their lambing percentage is 10% lower than the North Country Mules, but over the last two or three years they’ve actually had the edge for lamb sales, with their lambs being better fleshed and more easily finished. “On top of this a significant number of ewe lambs are sold for breeding and the Texel x Cheviot Mule ewe lambs are well sought after, selling at up to £90/head in recent years. They’re bold, sharp ewe lambs that catch the eye and certainly perform well for the buyers as we have a number of repeat customers for them,” he explains.

Mr Clarke says the farm’s exposed position can mean grass is slow to get going, so ewes are fed for several weeks after lambing with feed levels dropped away gradually until being completely stopped in mid-May. “I like to keep a little bit of feed in front of ewes while the grass gets going, it just helps keep lambs growing. Feed blocks high in zinc are also used post-lambing and these help keep orf under control. When it comes to selling prime lambs the flock largely sells liveweight, with lambs destined for Bakewell Market. “Selling live works well for us and we generally start selling in the second week of July and get about a third of the lamb crop away as finished lambs before the middle of September.

All female replacements are bought in as gimmers, with North Country Mules sourced from sales at Skipton and Cheviot Mules purchased privately from a number of farms in the Scottish borders. “We’ve built up a good relationship with three or four suppliers over the years and they know the sort of gimmer I’m looking for.”

What’s left after that is usually sold as store lambs, with about half of these sold privately and the remainder also sold at Bakewell.

Purchased females are run as separate mobs until after they’ve been dipped, with scab having been bought in with a group of sheep several years ago. “We implement a strict quarantine policy to avoid any issues being bought in and it is certainly helping keep the flock clear of problems.

He adds that as more arable ground comes back in to grass the aim is to finish a greater number of lambs rather than selling so many stores, with new leys helping on this front.

Lambing takes place inside, with twins and triplets housed after scanning and singles staying out until the start of lambing. “Housed ewes are fed silage until about six weeks before lambing when we introduce concentrates at up to 1kg/head depending on scanning results. After lambing ewes are fed quite a lot of fodder beet and have ad-lib feed blocks too, helping maximise their milk yield.

“All ewe lambs likely to be sold as breeding sheep are marked out at this stage and anything that has had a problem at lambing isn’t considered for this purpose. Ewes and lambs are then turned out fairly quickly after lambing depending on the weather, with the Texel cross lambs able to cope well no matter what the conditions.”

“We always aim to have no lambs left on the farm by the time the tups go out again in the autumn to allow the ewes as much grass as possible over tupping.”

“We’re looking at grassland management and the type of grasses we’re growing more carefully to hopefully allow us to reduce feed use and improve the number of lambs we’re able to finish, particularly as much of our permanent pasture can struggle in a dry summer.” When it comes to picking tups for the nucleus Texel flock the aim is to buy long, well fleshed, tight skinned tups with good shape and correct feet and legs. “We generally buy privately and focus clearly on buying a commercial type of tup to breed the sort we need in our commercial flock.

I can honestly say I don’t think there’s another breed I’d entertain on the commercial flock. The Texel gives us a versatile product which can attract premium prices as either a finished lamb, a store lamb or a ewe lamb. No other breed can match that.”

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Easy finishing makes Texels ideal for milking flock John and Simon Stott, Chipping, Lancashire

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inishing close to 1000 lambs on an artificial rearing system means the Stott family of Chipping, Lancashire, are well versed in the art of finishing lambs efficiently to maximise returns. The lambs, which are the offspring from the farm’s 600-ewe milking flock of Friesland and Laucane cross ewes, are generally finished from about 12 weeks onwards, but with the milking ewes lambing at about 250% there are only a small number of singles which get away first, explains John Stott who farms with his son Simon and family at Laund Farm. “We started milking in 2000 and have developed the business from there to the point where we now run a business selling the milk from nine other sheep dairies in the north of England. While the lambs from the milk sheep are in some ways the byproduct of the milking flock, they are an important part of the business and we have to rear them well to maximise their value.” Both replacement ewe lambs and slaughter lambs are reared alongside each other, with all male lambs left entire to maximise growth rates and performance, says John. “Lambs stay on their dams for the first two days to ensure they get the colostrum they need and then they are moved on to an artificial rearing system.

Lambs are weaned off milk at five weeks old and usually finished by 16 weeks.

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“Most lambs adapt to the artificial system quickly, but the key is not to try and get them on the teats when they are full. We generally take lambs from their mothers in the morning and won’t try to get them to drink from the teats until late in the afternoon on the same day. This means they are hungry and far more likely to take to the system more quickly.” Lambs are then reared on ad-lib artificial milk for five weeks with creep feed and straw offered alongside milk and an abrupt weaning taking place at five weeks old. “We have left them on milk for longer in the past, but it doesn’t do the lambs any good and we can often lose a few with bloat when they’re on milk any longer. Abrupt weaning means they adapt more quickly to the concentrate diet and reduces any chances of losses,” he adds.

Once lambs are weaned off milk they remain on creep feed and straw and are housed until finishing, with the aim to sell them at about 42-44kg liveweight. “Turning them out to grass would cause too much of a check in their growth and risk slowing down finishing.”

All replacement ewe hoggs go to Texel tups for their first lambing.

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All lambs are sold to processor Dunbia’s Preston slaughterhouse on a deadweight basis with carcasses paid up to 21kg, says Simon Stott. “We breed about half the flock to dairy sires to breed replacements, with the other half put to terminal sires, mainly Texels. We find the Texel cross lambs are great in this system, they are easily born, hit the ground with plenty of vigour and finish easily. “On top of that we also have a steady demand for Texel cross ewe lambs out of the milk sheep for use as commercial ewes and also as recipient ewes for embryo transfer work. Additionally, one of our fellow sheep dairies likes to use Texel crosses in his milking flock as he finds they milk well and are more robust than the dairy breeds.” Lambing takes place in two batches with the first group of about 450 ewes lambed in January and a further 150 including replacement hoggs lambed in April, with all hoggs put to Texels for their first lambing. “The first group only get two cycles with the ram, with about 80% taking in the first cycle. Once lambed ewes milk for 300 days before being dried off. Average yields for the flock are 3.5 litres a day which is about as good you’ll get,” adds Simon.

“We find the Texel cross lambs are some of the first to get away and recent monitoring has shown our lambs to be gaining an average of 300g a day from birth to weaning which we’re more than pleased with.” Most lambs are sold by 16 weeks old and Texel crosses lead the grades, with many grading as Us. “We look for a bit of shape in

High costs mean we have to maximise the value of every lamb, explains John Stott.

the rams we buy, with length and good skins also important to ensure we produce the quality of carcass we want to. We are looking for good strong commercial type rams when buying, avoiding those with excessive head and bone,” he says. John says the family have tried a number of terminal sires in the milking flock over the years, but none can match the consistency that Texels produce in their offspring. “We’ve settled on the Texel for the consistency they offer and the quality of carcass produced. The added benefit of having a ready demand for Texel cross females makes them the ideal sire for this system.” With costs high for finishing lambs in this system and milk powder alone costing in the region of £50/lamb maximising the value of every slaughter lamb is essential. To this end the Stotts are convinced targeting the early lamb market with Texel cross prime lambs is the best way forward. “Lambing in January means most of our lambs are sold before there are many new season lambs on the market which obviously helps us achieve the best prices,” adds John.

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Investing now for future success

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ontinued investment by the Texel Society and Texel breeders is helping the sheep industry prepare for a more sustainable and viable future. Large scale, pioneering research and development amounting to >£3M will deliver benefits for commercial producers allowing them to more economically produce lamb that are better suited to modern market requirements.

TECHNOLOGY Central to much of the Society’s work are a range of technologies that can gather data which has previously been hard to obtain. The Society is committed to ensuring the industry is at the forefront of the adoption of new technology and is supporting the use of techniques such as CT scanning and video image analysis (VIA) grading of carcasses, and pioneering the use of genomic technologies in the UK sheep sector. These technologies allow a far greater level of information to be gathered about breeding stock, providing feedback to both farmers and researchers on which animals are delivering carcasses within retailers’ desired specifications.

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CARCASS CONDEMNATION Research is also underway to assess carcass condemnation data from Texel sired carcasses and again link this back to known sires. The intention is to determine the levels of hard to measure disease traits and in turn develop breeding values for resilience for these diseases. Investing in measuring traits which are hard to measure in live animals is helping to ensure the sheep industry can tackle disease challenges using genetics rather than increased reliance on medicinal products, some of which are becoming less effective due to the development of resistance.

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CARCASS TRAITS Work is underway to assess the carcasses of several thousand Texel sired lambs as part of a large scale feasibility study, led by the Society. Feedback from this work will assess and identify bloodlines capable of producing prime lambs best suited to market requirements. This work will lead to the development of new breeding indices for carcass traits and builds on existing work which has identified Texels with genes for extra vertebrae, leading to longer loins and increased saleable meat yields. Using proven technology, including CT scanning and objective carcass assessment by video image analysis, this research will deliver meaningful data to fuel performance recording.

MEAT QUALITY Alongside the work on carcass traits a complementary project, assessing meat quality, aims to identify the genetics which deliver carcasses with improved eating quality. Central to this is the assessment of intramuscular fat (marbling) in carcasses by CT scanning and near infa-red analysis (NIR) as well as using taste panels.

PERFORMANCE RECORDING As well as investing in the research and development of new breeding values, the Society is also committed to developing and delivering enhanced performance recording with the Texel breed to aid commercial producers with their breeding decisions. A significant part of this has involved the creation of both pedigree and commercial phenotyping farms to allow the collection of data on hard to measure traits which can in time be fed back into genetic evaluations. By increasing the amount of data available for analysis the Society is aiming to provide increasingly accurate breeding values for a wide range of existing and novel traits. This will ensure that the most cuttingedge technologies are available to breeders for the development of the Texel breed, for the benefit of commercial producers and consumers.

Producing carcasses with a desirable level of intramuscular fat and without excessive external fat, will deliver benefits beyond the improved eating quality. These include potentially reducing waste at both a farm and processor level and improved slaughter prices for producers.

DISEASE RESILIENCE One key area of research is disease resilience. Work is already underway to reduce the impact of endemic diseases such as mastitis and footrot on flocks. The long-term vision is to produce breeding stock that are more resilient to these challenges, in-turn leading to reduced use of antimicrobial products, and resulting in a more sustainable sheep industry. In a pioneering development the Texel Society is the first organisation of its type to develop genomic breeding values for resilience to both these important diseases. These will become available for all Texel members’ flocks in the near future, ultimately enabling commercial producers to select breeding stock of higher genetic merit and with resilience to these major diseases.

Images courtesy of SRUC CT scanning unit.

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Texel cross ewes help the Struthers family meet the demands of exacting buyers including local butchers.

Flexibility key to Texel success in Lanarkshire flock Robert and Margaret Struthers - Carluke, Lanarkshire

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he Struthers family’s Texel story began back in 1981, when Robert and Margaret received a pedigree Eastfield ewe as a wedding gift from Margaret’s father, John Dunlop. Now, 35 years later, the breed remains the backbone of the 650-strong sheep flock at Collielaw and Craigend Farms, Carluke. In all, the family farm 450 acres between the two nearby units, with son Iain based at Craigend, while daughter Christine has recently moved north to Aberdeenshire. Alongside their 50 pedigree ewes in the Collielaw and Craigend flocks and 600 crossbred ewes, they also run a suckler herd of 100 cows which are all put to Limousin bulls, with the calves finished at home, plus their Collielaw pedigree Limousin herd, which consists of 12 cows. Having previously used Suffolk tups on the crossbred flock, the family gradually converted to Texels in the 1980s, as Robert explains: “After getting that first Texel, we began using both Suffolk and Texel tups, but we always found the Texel lambs were making a bit more, which encouraged us to eventually use solely Texels.” Other than the ewe hoggs, which go to a Beltex in their first year, the Struthers have continued to use the Texel as their main sire of choice and they still believe it’s the best option for their system.

“We find the Texel lambs easy to manage and they give us flexibility when it comes to selling – they can go at 40kg, but equally we could keep them until they’re as much as 50kg,” says Robert.

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The ewe flock is made up of Texel x Mules and three quarter Texels, with 45 Texel x Mules bought privately each year from South Slipperfield, West Linton, while 50 homebred three quarter Texel ewe lambs are retained too.

Iain says the family find the Texel x Mules to be good, milky sheep that make excellent mothers. “We also get a decent trade for them at the other end, when it comes to selling them as five-crop ewes.” The best of the homebred tups are used on the cross flock, with about 10 needed each year, meaning they are worked fairly hard. However, the ewes are lambed in three batches, between the beginning of April and the start of May, so rams used to tup the first batch of ewes can also be used for the third batch, explains Margaret. “Lambing them in batches works best for us. The first two lots are lambed inside and by the time the first batch are finished and back outside the next lot are ready to come in. The May batch are kept at Craigend and brought back to Collielaw to be lambed outside, with the weather being kinder by then,” she says. Pre-lambing, the first two lots of ewes receive an 18% high energy concentrate for 4-6 weeks, while the later ones at Craigend have only grass and energy blocks. Once born, lambs are treated with iodine and for watery mouth and put back out within a few days. Iain says: “The past few years, we’ve started batch penning the mothers with their lambs before we put them outside, which gives them a chance to bond and seems to make a big difference once they’re back out in the field.”

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Not surprisingly, this level of consistency has ensured success at primestock shows over the years, including the Scottish Texel Club’s Fatstock Show in July, which they’ve won for the past five years in a row. And Collielaw lambs have also secured the top places at Lanark’s Christmas show and sale several times – selling to a top of 670.7p/kg (£275/head) for their 41kg threequarter Texel champion lambs in 2005. “Our system is grass-based, so we put a lot of effort into the management of the grass and make sure the fields are given a rest before the lambs go back out. Ewes and lambs are put onto silage fields initially, until mid-May. I think ensuring that the lambs get off to a good start is essential,” says Iain. To fit around the sheep, just one cut of silage is taken, with 100 acres cut in midJuly. They also grow 28 acres of barley for the cattle.

The lambs are ready for market from mid-July onwards, with most sold straight off grass and generally only the last 100 or so lambs given any feed. The family’s close proximity to Lanark Market means they work a fairly unique system, selling 25-30 lambs every Monday from July onwards, for about six months. Ideally, they want them to be 43-45kg and they have a regular butcher who buys between seven and eight from them each week.

With the commercial side of the sheep business taking precedence, the pedigrees have worked away steadily in the background over the years, with Collielaw winning the Scottish Texel Club flock competition in 2006 and leading the small flock and ewe lamb sections of that contest several times. In the past couple of years, however, they have flushed a few of the best females, in a bid to improve the overall quality of their pedigree ewes. So far, this seems to have paid off, with their two dearest lambs last year at 1700gns and 1000gns both being embryos and both selling to pedigree flocks.

“We aim for the butchers’ market, so we tailor our selling system and our lambs specifically for that. I think that we benefit from knowing our market and being able to produce exactly what our buyers want,” says Robert. “That’s another plus point for lambing in batches – it means we have consistent lambs ready to go each week, for several months,” he adds.

Others in the past have sold up to 5000gns for Collielaw Jumbo in 2003 and 4400gns for Collielaw Jacko in the same year. With an eye for a bargain, Robert says he bought the sires of those lambs for 180gns and 380gns in the form of Gala Impact and Sheeoch Hawkeye, respectively. However, he admits it’s not quite so easy to grab a bargain at pedigree sales nowadays.

The attention to detail certainly seems to work, as the Collielaw lambs regularly make about 30p/kg above the average at Lanark prime sales and they hit the top of the trade most weeks.

Probably the best known Collielaw tup, however, was Victor, sold in 1991 for 2400gns to Baltier. The following year, his first five sons averaged £7100. “We’ve always aimed for good shoulders, skins and backsides in tups and we try to keep females to a medium, more manageable size,” says Robert.

Looking through their summer 2016 prices gives an indication of how the lamb trade has improved on the year – in July 2015, the first draw averaged 175p/kg (£78.70/head), while the same week in 2016 saw them average 196.9p/kg (£95.80/head).

“I think the breed as a whole needs to keep focused on the commercial traits that have made it as popular as it is today. Commercially, they only need to be producing a 40-odd kg lamb, so there’s no need for them to be huge,” he adds.

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Texels make the cut for Ballyclare butchers Ian Millar, Ballyclare, Co Antrim

F

or Ballyclare, Co Antrim-based farmer and butcher Ian Millar there is nothing to beat the Texel when it comes to providing the ideal carcass for his retail and catering butchery.

“We started our pedigree Texel flock in 1978 and have never been tempted by another breed since then. As a farmer the Texel offers everything I want, the lambs are vigorous at birth and grow quickly.

“Its all about carcass balance. The most valuable cut of lamb is the loin and the length and depth of loin of the Texel can’t be beaten. When we cut a 21kg Texel carcass we know we’re going to get roughly 7kg of shoulder, 7kg of loin and 7kg of leg, other breeds may look better, but they lack the loin the Texel cross delivers,” he explains.

“Meanwhile, as a butcher the Texel wins hands down too, with the breed’s ability to go to heavier weights without laying down excessive fat suiting the needs of our catering customers. These are largely local hotels looking for larger legs of lamb for use in carveries.”

“Not that we deal with many carcasses at that weight, we’re generally looking for deadweights of 24.5kg and above to satisfy the needs of our customers for larger joints and sizable racks of lamb.

Mr Millar says he doesn’t believe any other breed can offer the returns for farmers and butchers that the Texel can. “We can see it when we cut the carcasses in the butchers, the meat yield off a Texel carcass is far superior to anything else.

We want that larger eye muscle coupled with a lean fat cover which the breed offers. We put through about 15 to 16.5 lamb carcasses a week and have to be precise about the quality of the carcass we handle.

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www.texel.co.uk • tel: 024 7669 6629 • email: office@texel.co.uk 07/04/2017 10:15


“High prices have made lamb less popular now as a meat than it has historically been. As a result we have to ensure we deliver a high quality product to our customers to ensure they come back again. When lamb became more expensive four or five years ago we saw an immediate drop off in demand and it hasn’t yet returned.” A useful sideline for the butcher’s shop is the production of lamb burgers from those cuts not required for retail or catering customers.

“We first produced lamb burgers when we hosted a Texel open night many years ago and they were so popular we decided to offer them through the shop too,” adds Mr Millar. Running the 30-ewe Millcomb pedigree flock of Texels gives Mr Millar a valuable insight in to the breed and its direction. “There’s no doubt the breed has come on leaps and bounds since I first started with it, both growth rates and skins have improved and these are valuable traits for the commercial producer. Good tight skins without stripping mean lambs have a good cover at birth to allow them to thrive no matter what the weather, something the Texel excels at.” Buyers have clearly been taken with the quality of the stock produced in the Millcomb flock, with pedigree breeders paying up to 4200gns in recent years for Millcomb Vindicator which sold at the Northern Irish National Sale, Ballymena, in 2014. “We aim to breed quality commercial tups with the pedigree tups being a bonus.”

The Texel wins from both a farming and butchery perspective, says Ian Millar.

Looking ahead Mr Millar says he believes commercial producers will be hard pressed to find a breed better suited to prime lamb production in Northern Ireland, with the Texel’s conformation, carcass balance and ability to thrive off grass all central to its continued success.

In touch with Texel • @twitter.com/britishtexel • #addtexeladdvalue Texel Primestock Magazine_03_17.indd 15

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Finishing every lamb maximises flock income Tom and Tim Yandle, Exbridge, Somerset

R

unning an extensive sheep and beef farm on Exmoor, Tim Yandle and his father Tom are well known and respected as livestock farmers.

Farming 2000 ewes and 130 suckler cows based at Riphay Barton, Exebridge, Somerset, the business revolves around the 202ha (500 acre) holding, but is reliant on up to 283ha (700 acres) of grass keep.

Mr Yandle buys in about 20 pedigree Texel rams each year from Michael Lear at Loxbeare, Tiverton, Devon, with this relationship being a long-term one stretching back more than 20 years. Mr Lear, who’s North Sidborough flock regularly features in the South West Texel Club’s flock competition says he is keenly focussed on his commercial customers.

The latter ground - much of it dairy grassland which can be up to 40 miles away – allows the family to finish every lamb born at Riphay.

“I have been selling rams to Tim for 20 years now. There is no doubt my rams have improved over that period: I have selected for length, size and shape. A good back end is important, but not as much as the width of loin.

“This is an extremely commercial set up,” explains Tim Yandle. “We don’t sell store lambs because we reckon we can get a better trade with a finished lamb: the idea is to capitalise on the lamb trade by selling when the money is better as fewer lambs become available nationally.

“At the same time I have not worried so much about heads; a narrower, old fashioned head will always lamb easier. Instead it is imperative all my sheep have a good shoulder. When a lamb is hung up the shoulder is at eye level and so it is the first place a grader assesses.”

“Doing so off grass obviously reduces costs. However, using Texel rams allows us to get lambs to 19- 20kg deadweight throughout our selling season without them running to fat. I have tried a few other breeds, but the Texel rams consistently produce the goods in this system.”

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At Riphay Barton the Texel rams are put across a variety of breeds, with the Yandles loyally supporting their local markets and hence buying Exmoor Mule ewe lambs from Blackmoor Gate. The flock is supplemented with North Country Mules and Suffolk cross ewes. The flock lambs from mid-March to the end of April, with concentrate offered from scanning in January. “Singles are offered

www.texel.co.uk • tel: 024 7669 6629 • email: office@texel.co.uk 07/04/2017 10:15


Long, well fleshed rams are central to Tim Yandle’s sheep system.

0.23kg (0.5lb) a day of ewe rolls via a snacker until a couple of days post lambing outdoors. “Twins, meanwhile, lamb inside and are fed between 0.34kg (0.75lb) and 0.68kg (1.5lb) a day of rolls, ad lib hay and clamp silage.” Lambs are generally weaned at the beginning of September when they are crutched and sorted for fresh pasture away from Riphay. “Between lambing and weaning we aim to move stock to fresh pasture on a regular basis. “But it is only at weaning that some lambs – those closest to finishing at 20kg deadweight – are offered ad lib 18% protein lamb pellets. These will be the first batch of lambs to go to Jaspers in Cornwall or Randall Parker Foods. Only they receive feed other than grass,” he explains. “Thereafter lambs are sent off to grass on dairy farms at an average cost of 30p a lamb/week and I will spend the months until the end of April picking lambs from there,” says Mr Yandle.

“Grade wise we do get some Es, but most lambs are Us and Rs. The rams Mr Lear supplies us with every year are consistent in terms of quality and hence I do not need to go and pick them. I am confident the rams will deliver what the trade requires and their lambs are tough from the moment they are born.” Management of this extensive sheep system is made easier with the help of three sheep dogs as well as a mobile handling system and a large selection of electric fencing which is invaluable across much of the grass keep ground. “My children Tom, nine, and Victoria, five, as well as my wife Andrea are also a great help,” he adds. Clamp silage is harvested in just one cut by contractors with 40ha (100 acres) going in a clamp. A further 121ha (300 acres)

Finishing every lamb at home is the best way to make the flock profitable, says Tim Yand le.

are laid aside for either hay or round bale silage. In a good year Mr Yandle aims for 101ha (250 acres) of this to be made into big square bale hay. “Our system is perhaps perceived as old fashioned, but it works,” says Mr Yandle. “Some days when I go somewhere and find the electric fencing strewn across a field and it takes four hours to check the sheep, rather than half an hour on a Sunday afternoon, I do wonder why I bother. However, we are finishing a large number of quality lambs in a system which is not heavy on inputs so I see no reason to change anything.”

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Carreg Cen

Thrifty sheep suit mixed system Bernard Llewellyn, Llandeillo, Carmarthenshire

E

ase of lambing and the ability to thrive on a variety of pastures and dam breeds makes the Texel the sire of choice for Carmarthenshire-based producer Bernard Lllewellyn.

to 48kg liveweight, while lambs from our small flock of Soay ewes are sold at about 32-36kg.”

“We run a range of breeds here across a variety of terrain, including Hill Radnors, Balwens, Welsh Mountains and improved Welsh Mountain ewes, with many of the improved Welsh being by North Country Cheviot or Nelson Welsh tups.

Some lambs are finished on the hill, with lambs taken off the hill in mid-October for finishing on lower ground. “We generally start to sell these from mid-December onwards, although it is easier to finish a few on the hill now that numbers have been reduced in line with agri-environment scheme requirements.

“The highest ground runs to 1000ft with this grazed by two crop ewes and older, with a number of Texel cross females also retained and grazed across this hill ground too,” explains Bernard.

“That said the sheep are an important part of the balance on the hill as without them the bracken would take over and it would change markedly from the landscape we know now.”

“We lamb all these ewes inside, starting with the older ewes from the first of March onwards, with younger North Country Cheviot and Nelson Welsh cross ewes lambing from mid-March onwards and all lambing finished by the middle of April.

Bernard says the Texel x Soay lambs may not be as good a lamb as some of the other crosses, but they are a marked improvement on a pure Soay lamb.

“Ewes are then turned back to the hill in April, with older ewes and twins kept back from the hill and grazing the grassland around the historic Carreg Cennen Castle which forms part of the farm,” he adds. Ewes are housed two to three weeks ahead of lambing, with a housing capacity of about 160 ewes meaning the earlier lambers have to be turned out before later lambers can be housed. Twin bearing ewes receive a little concentrate during housing and immediately post lambing, but nothing once back to grass, with lambs not creep fed either. Single bearing ewes, meanwhile, only receive silage while housed. “We start to draw our first lambs in July, with all lambs sold liveweight and weaned ewes then put back to the hill for the remainder of the summer. “Selling liveweight suits our system as we have a broad range of lambs from the mix of dam breeds we have, but there is a buyer for all types of lambs. Our first draw lambs tend to be 40-42kg liveweight, with the Welsh lambs generally heavier at 44kg and up

18 Texel Primestock Magazine_03_17.indd 18

“They are easily kept ewes which don’t require a lot of feed or maintenance and which thrive when left outside to their own devices. We did try and house them once and it wasn’t a success!” And, with such a variety of ewe types among the flock Bernard says it is essential to have the right tup to use on them, preferring a neat, commercial type of Texel, with plenty of shape without being too heavy in the shoulder or head. “We buy privately from the Aman flock and are careful to select the type of tup to suit the flock. “The Texel breed’s ease of fleshing and ability to thrive on all types of forage is a major bonus for us, with the hill ground being vastly different from the high sugar grass leys we can grow on the lower ground.” This allied with good lamb vigour and ease of lambing on even smaller breeds such as the Soay mean Texels are set to stay at Carreg Cennen Castle. “We know what we’re getting with a Texel and so do the buyers, white faced lambs are what buyers look for these days and so long as we continue to produce the right type of lamb there is no reason for that to change.”

www.texel.co.uk • tel: 024 7669 6629 • email: office@texel.co.uk 07/04/2017 10:15


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#addtexeladdvalue National Sales 23 - 24 August Scottish National Show & Sale LANARK Lawrie & Symington Tel: 01555 662 281

26 August Welsh National Show & Sale WELSHPOOL Welshpool Livestock Sales Tel: 01938 553438

28 - 29 August English National Show & Sale WORCESTER McCartneys Tel: 01905 769770

6 - 7 September - NEW DATE! Northern Ireland National Show & Sale BALLYMENA J A McClelland Tel: 028 2563 3470

Regional Sales 7 August BUILTH WELLS NSA Early Ram Sale Clee, Tompkinson & Francis Tel: 01874 622 488 13 August KENDAL NWA Jct 36 Tel: 01539566200

16 September WORCESTER McCartneys Tel: 01905 769 770

27 November THAINSTONE Aberdeen & Northern Mart Tel: 01467 623710

8 September KELSO For more details Tel: 01573 224188

19 September THAINSTONE Aberdeen & Northern Mart Tel: 01467 623710

30 November FFAIRFACH Ffairfach Livestock Mart Tel: 01267 236268

21 September CLITHEROE Auction Mart Tel: 01200 423325

2 December WORCESTER McCartneys Tel: 01905 769770

10 September LLANDOVERY Clee, Tompkinson & Francis Tel: 01874 622488

23 September CARLISLE Harrison &Hetherington Tel: 01228 06230

8 December CARLISLE Harrison & Hetherington Tel: 01228 406230

10-11 September RUTHIN Ruthin Farmers Auction Tel: 01824 702025

25 September BUILTH WELLS Main NSA Ram Sale Clee, Tompkinson &Francis Tel: 01874 622488

9 December SKIPTON Craven Cattle Mart Tel: 01756 792375

9 September NEWARK Society Sale Newark Livestock Market Tel: 01636 676741

16 August EXETER NSA SW Ram Sale Sue Martin Tel: 01409 271385 31 August GAERWEN Morgan & Evans Tel: 01248 421582 31 August – 1 September CARLISLE Harrison & Hetherington Tel: 01228 406230

14 September WILTON Southern Counties Tel: 01722 321215

2 September FFAIRFACH Ffairfach Livestock Mart Tel: 01267 236268 2 September SHREWSBURY Shrewsbury Livestock Auctioneers Tel: 01743 462620 8 September RUTHIN (DUTCH) Ruthin Farmers Auction Company Tel: 01824 702025

8 September ASHFORD Hobbs Parker Tel: 01233 502222

14 September LANARK Lawrie & Symington Tel: 01555 662281 14-15 September SKIPTON Craven Cattle Mart Tel: 01756 792 375 14 September BAKEWELL Bagshaws Tel: 01629 812777

28 September WELSHPOOL Welshpool Livestock Sales Tel: 01938553438 16 October WELSHPOOL Welshpool Livestock Sales Tel: 01938 553438 25 November NEWARK Society Sale Newark Livestock Market Tel: 01636 676741

15 December LLANDOVERY Clee, Tompkinson & Francis Tel: 01874 622488 21December WELSHPOOL Welshpool Livestock Sales Tel: 01938 553438 6 January 2018 CHELFORD Wright Marshall Tel: 01625 861122 13th January 2018 LANARK Lawrie & Symington Tel: 01555 662 281

Northern Ireland Sales 28 August RATHFRILAND Rathfriland Farmers Co-Op Tel: 028 4063 8493

15 September ENNISKILLEN Ulster Farmers Mart Tel: 028 6632 2218

2 September RUAS BALMORAL Richard Beattie’s Livestock Sales Tel: 028 8164 7105

20 September SWATRAGH Sperrin & Bann Valley Mart Tel: 029 7940 1335

14 September ARMOY D McAllister Tel: 028 2177 1227

21 September CLOGHER Clogher Mart Tel: 028 81647105

22 September LISAHALLY Richard Beattie’s Livestock Sales Tel: 028 8164 7105

27 September MARKETHILL Markethill Livestock Tel: 028 3755 1265

22 September HILLTOWN Hilltown Mart Tel: 028 4063 0287

6 October GORTIN Richard Beattie’s Livestock Sales Tel: 028 8164 7105

25 September BALLYMENA Co Antrim J A McClelland Tel: 028 2563 3470

9 October BALLYMENA Harvest Sale J A McClelland Tel: 028 25633470

4 December BALLYMENA J A McClelland Tel: 028 2563 3470

Dates correct as of 01/04/17

www.texel.co.uk/sales for the latest sale information Texel Primestock Magazine_03_17.indd 20

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