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Award winning Drinkstone Open day for Murray Trust

Identifying rams that seriously cut the mustard – or mint is key to achieving a profitable flock, together with a formula for sustainable production. These were the take home messages for more than 40 visitors to the award winning “Future farmer of the year” Drinkstone flock, at Hawick, on Wednesday 27th July.

Stuart Ashworth QMS; Sam Boon, Signet; Moira Gallagher SAC; Arnold and John Park, Michael Williams, Murray Trust co-ordinator and Harvey MacMillam, chairman Murray Trust
Stuart Ashworth QMS; Sam Boon, Signet; Moira Gallagher SAC; Arnold and John Park, Michael Williams, Murray Trust co-ordinator and Harvey MacMillam, chairman Murray Trust

With top speakers triggering in depth discussion, Sam Boon of Signet, urged commercial producers to consider their current flock breeding programme and what ought to be changed when setting future breeding objectives.

He said: “With Drinkstones Suffolk and Texel flock Signet performance figures in the top one per cent in the UK it clearly demonstrates the rewards of setting breeding objectives. The genetic progress at Drinkstone is three times the rate of the national average – of those who do record.

Texel Gimmers
Texel Gimmers

Sam urged lamb producers to do their homework on the internet: “All the information is in the public domain. Identify the traits which will be profitable for your flock and then locate the breeders that will cut the mustard.”

Commenting on Drinkstone’s pasture management, Dr John Vipond praised the Park’s approach to sustainability – targeting a bigger proportion of clover in the sward. Dr Vipond explained: “In order to achieve more clover in the sward you need to have compatible grass clover varieties, late heading tetra-ploids and small leaved clovers fit the bill.

High index genetics at the Drinkstone flock working hand in hand with sustainable grass production
High index genetics at the Drinkstone flock working hand in hand with sustainable grass production

“The Parks are using red clover and hybrid-rye grass in a specific mix for producing silage and aftermath grazing for lambs. Even the demands of the high performance Drinkstone flocks are satisfied by supplementing this high protein red clover silage with soya in late pregnancy, rather than feeding grass silage and concentrates.”

Dr Vipond concluded that the knock on benefit is reduced worm challenge: “Ewes don’t lose their immunity in late pregnancy, meaning that both the ewes and lambs are cleaner, further enhancing sustainable farming and profit.”

Chairman of the Murray Trust, Harvey MacMillam, which awards the Future Farmer of the Year, praised the combination of running the high index flocks while enhancing sustainability through grassland management and achieving sound environmental practices, benefitting wildlife through the Scottish Rural Development Programme

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“The benefits of Inter Club visits” - South Wales Club visit to Isle of Man Texel breeders

Club Trip to the Isle of Man

The South Wales Club successfully mixed business and pleasure on their recent trip to the Isle of Man.

The wake of ‘Manannan’
The wake of ‘Manannan’

The weather forecasters had predicted a deep area of low pressure for the crossing from Liverpool on Friday the 17th June 2011, however despite heavy rain, the sea remained fairly smooth and an uneventful crossing was experienced. We got to the Empress Hotel, Douglas at 9.30 in time for a quiet, or relaxing at least, evening in the Bar.

Saturday saw the flock visits. First up was the Ballaglonney flock. The Creer family are well known in South Wales and many of the members present have owned Ballaglonney stock. It was with sadness that the Club noted the family’s loss of Colin Creer in the spring. Danny’s philosophy on taking over the flock a few years ago had to reflect the fact that he and his family are extraordinarily busy with the other aspects of their various farming ventures. The stated aim was clear, to produce 40 or so strong shearling tups for sale to local flock masters at an annual home sale and a further draw for sale at the Builth Wells NSA, all off grass with little supplemental feed.

Ballaglonney shearling tups
Ballaglonney shearling tups

With the heavy rain the previous day the stock were all run through the yard for inspection. Firstly we saw the pick of the lambs both male and female. They were by two tups, Caereinion Number One and Cowal Powerhouse both of whom Danny has a share in. The lambs had not been creep fed. They were well grown, fit and had good skins which had held up well to the torrential rain the day before. A number of strong shearling tup candidates were present (by the Caereinion tup mainly) and a number of very stylish but more compact ewe lambs by the Cowal tup who has of course had sons sold for up to 40,000gns.

Ballaglonney ewes and lambs
Ballaglonney ewes and lambs

Next up were the ewe flock with all the lambs. There were a number of very strong ewes with plenty of character on display, together with a number of lambs that could have staked a claim to have been singled out themselves.

They were followed by the Shearling tups, who as with the lambs previously, were penned up for closer inspection. These were by Alwent and Drinkstone tups. Danny’s guiding philosophy was clearly in evidence. The rams again were well grown and fit. Supplemental feeding would commence shortly and by the autumn many of the upstanding tups on display would grace any sale.

Finally the yearling ewes were run through the yard. The members picked out a number of shapely gimmers. A cup of tea and the presentation of a bottle of Penderyn Whisky later we were on the road.

Presenting the Penderyn to the Creer family
Presenting the Penderyn to the Creer family

The bus driver took us to the Tynwald and over the TT course and gave us interesting information on the island en route to the Orrisdale flock of the Kermode family.

Orrisdale ‘potentials’
Orrisdale ‘potentials’

We were told two things at Orrisdale. Firstly that we were the first Texel Club to visit them (which astounded us, but makes us trailblazers I suppose) but secondly that everything we saw was for sale! More on the business side later on. We were greeted with a buffet lunch of some quality. We were then shown the ‘potentials’ pen, lambs selected as candidates for show and sale whose mothers were fed concentrates during lactation and that are themselves given supplemental feeding on weaning. Their fathers were penned on one side with colour coded neck tags, the lambs had neck tags corresponding to their sire and their mothers were penned the others side, allowing individual lambs’ mothers to identified. The other ewes are grass fed alone and they and their lambs were also penned and scrutinised.

Orrisdale gimmers
Orrisdale gimmers

Next, having seen the homebred Limousin stock bull with three cows, we travelled to rented land to see the yearlings and Limousin heifers. First up were the gimmers. They were brought into an enclosed yard and were an awesome sight. The members were unanimous in their praise. Collectively it would be difficult to imagine a stronger group. They were very shapely gimmers with excellent heads and in fine condition. The tups were close by and were less in number as many ram lambs are sold. Again after the presentation of a bottle of Penderyn we hit the road, this time for award winning ice cream in Peel, and then back to the Hotel for supper and drinks where our hosts joined us as guests.

The Kermode family receiving their Penderyn
The Kermode family receiving their Penderyn

After auctioning a spare bottle of Penderyn for our adopted charity, the Welsh Air Ambulance (bought for £65 by Walt Jones, Divlyn) the socialising continued into the small hours. There was no incident (apart from Walt Jones, Divlyn failing to re-find his chair after a comfort break during supper) until Rowland Watkins mistook his room door for the toilet door and found himself trapped out on the corridor. Luckily his wife Gina slept lightly enough to hear his plaintive cries.

After a slightly later breakfast than Saturday, Sunday morning saw the members disperse for a free morning before sailing home.

And now, we’ll turn to business. A number of deals were made in the 24 hours from our arriving at Orrisdale. Rowland Watkins revisited Orrisdale on the Sunday morning and agreed to buy Orrisdale Santana in a £3,500 deal. Santana has excellent conformation and skin and is by New Testament Pharoah, (a Brague Nixon son out of a Cornerstone ewe) and out of a homebred dam by Callerton Kielder. Despite Rowland’s antics the previous night, the lamb will not, contrary to popular misconception, be renamed ‘Streaker’. He will however be shown at the Highland and Great Yorkshire prior to the conclusion of the deal with delivery to Cwmcerrig.

Orrisdale Santana
Orrisdale Santana

The first deal to be struck was on the shearling tup field the previous day where Orrisdale Ringleader, a big smart Shearling tup by Braehead Old Testament (by Cornerstone New Testament and sire of the 8,000gns Orrisdale Paradise) was bought in half shares by Glyn and Jeanette Williams, Crai for their Padest flock and Walter and Anne Jones, Cilycwm for their Divlyn flock.

Kiree Kermode’s favourite Orrisdale Smoothy, a long, shapely, tight skinned son of Hexel Rocket Man (by Livery Predator), was subject to a deal by Keith Evans, Gower for his Scurlage Castle flock at 2.00am in the Hotel bar, where a couple of hours previously a solid, bare ewe lamb by New Testament Pharoah was sold to Alfryn Davies, Penygroes for the Ifan Ddu flock.

Orrisdale Smoothy
Orrisdale Smoothy

Also on Sunday two ewe lambs were sold to Tomos Evans, Llanddarog for the Welsh flock. One was a smart, upstanding ewe lamb by the 2009 Dungannon Champion Millar’s Professor, a Cambwell OBE son. The other was a very sharp and widely admired ewe lamb with a bold eye by Milnbank Popcorn, a Millar’s Outstanding son. The average deal for 6 was comfortably in four figures.

Millar’s Professor daughter
Millar’s Professor daughter

South Wales Club Chairman Hywel Davies was heard to say that after this performance, the organiser of next year’s Club trip had better find a bus company who provide coaches with a hitch!

group photo
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Margaret Lyon – Tophill Joe Owner Leaves Heart Legacy

The late Margaret Lyon of Turriff, Aberdeenshire, who once owned a share of Britain’s most expensive sheep, has bequeathed more than £2 million to a heart disease charity in gratitude for the successful surgery which extended her life.

Margaret was part of the syndicate which bought the Texel ram, Tophill Joe, for £128,000 in 2003. The widow, who died in December 2010, has now left a total of £2,245,435 to the British Heart Foundation.

Fellow Turriff farmer and consortium member, Bruce Mair, said Mrs Lyon who had survived heart surgery, wished to benefit others through her will. At the time of the sale Tophill Joe was Britain’s most expensive sheep.

The ram, which died in 2009, is still the second most expensive sheep ever sold in Britain and fathered lambs worth more than a million pounds.

The record was broken in 2009 when another Texel, Deveronvale Perfection, who was bred in Banffshire, was sold to a breeder in Lanark for £231,000. Mr Mair said friends of Mrs Lyon knew she intended to make a generous donation to the charity. The most valuable part of the legacy is farm land worth £1.4m. Before her death at the age of 77, Mrs Lyon sold her sheep flocks.

A British Heart Foundation spokeswoman said the donation would help fund years of new research which could help save many lives in the future.

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Agraria 2011

4th - 8th May 2011

Breed Promotions turned to Romania earlier in May, which saw the 5th year of British Texel promotions in this country. Texel one of the few sheep breeds along with Hampshire Down that have continued to support British Genetics promotions. Romania has only the National Flock expansion of all the EU Nations. Whilst it has been troubled with bureaucratic issues and compliance with EU, exports of sheep genetics from the Uk look promising.

Agraria exhibition, in the small town of Cluj was not only very interesting but a resounding success with strong interest for Texel breed. The exhibition was well supported by local farmers keen to understand the benefits of using terminal sires.

Lamb is most popular at Easter, which forces their lambing dates earlier than expected by most with peak tupping in early September. Well situated for the Asian and Italian markets, where a heavier, better quality lamb will command a better price. Romanian producers are increasing their understanding of increasing productivity with meat production, to supply demand to local export markets, whilst ensuring their local native breed is maintained for milk production.

New shipments of Texel are planned for July.

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Collection of Performance Recorded Data

Signet have informed the Society that some forms for collection of data may have gone missing in the post. If you performance record with Signet, please ensure that you check that you are in receipt of the forms and note the closing date for the next evaluation is 12th May.

Copies of forms can be downloaded here

download Lamb Weigh Sheet

If you are interested in starting to performance record your 2011 lamb crop contact Signet directly asap.

A copy of the letter issued by Signet follows.....

Signet Breeding Services
Stoneleigh Park
Tel: 0247 647 8829

28 April 2011

Dear Texel Breeder

8 Week Weighsheets

It is my understanding that blank weighsheets have been sent to all Texel breeders in a mass mailing; however we have had four calls in the Signet office this week from Texel breeders that have not received anything from us.

In case there is a problem I am re-sending weighsheets to all Texel breeders.

Please find enclosed two blank weighsheets and a freepost envelope. Lambs should be weighed between 42 and 84 days of age to get a 56 day (8 week) adjusted weight. Please write your membership number on the weighsheet.

The next Texel run is 12th May – please ensure all lambing data is with the Texel Sheep Society and all weight data is with Signet by the 12th May at the very latest if you would like it including in the forthcoming breeding evaluation. For weights taken close to the deadline our fax is 0247 641 9071.

If you have already submitted weights, you can disregard this reminder. If you have any further queries please contact Natalie Dodd in the office Tel: 0247 647 8829.

Many thanks

Samuel Boon – Signet Manager

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Where Is Switzerland?

By Katrin Buehler

A short story from a Texel Sheep perspective following the latest export of 15 Texel Gimmers to Switzerland. We hope you enjoy the light heartered approach of the report. On a more serious note Texels continue to be in demand, with an increasing interest from this country.

Where is Switzerland? That was the question that bothered me and my pals as soon as we learned that we were going to travel to this foreign country. But let me start at the beginning of my exciting story.

I was born in early spring in 2010 and my official name is “Glenway MFZ 1000019” but my mom always called me Bernadette. I spent a happy, uneventful childhood on East Horton Farm in beautiful Northumberland. Ian our shepherd and owner is very kind and nice but a bit clumsy – even as a young lamb I could run faster than him but then the poor guy only has two legs….

One day he came to the shed as pleased as pudding and told his colleague that he had an order for fifteen gimmers to go to Switzerland. From then on life was getting exciting: He looked at us closely nearly every week and decided which ones would be going. His father also came to help making the decision. And yes, I got chosen! My mum was very proud of me! One of the old ewes said that she had heard rumours that there were wolves and lynx in Switzerland who liked tasty sheep but I guess she only wanted to spoil our joy and excitement – after all people must have some brain there too and not tolerate such dangerous animals…

Our ear tags got checked and double checked and then the vet came to examine us and – ouch – took a blood sample.

Where Is Switzerland?

Finally the great day came: A grand trailer drove into the farmyard and I was loaded together with my pals. There were five other Texels in there already from Castlehills Farm in Berwick-upon-Tweed, also destined for this exotic destination. One final glimpse to mum and Ian and - bang – the door closed. It was really a luxury journey: The fresh straw was knee deep and hay and water were plentiful. Even when five other sheep joined us we had plenty of space. These other ones looked different and seemed to be a bit dull as they didn’t even know where they were heading for. I’m sure they were not Texels – no brain! Now and then the door was opened and the driver gave us more water and hay and checked that we all were well and comfy. In fact I was so comfortable that I dozed most of the time in the luxury straw bed – so I’m sorry to say that I can’t tell you where exactly Switzerland is.

But one thing is for sure: It’s close to paradise. When we got unloaded the air smelt fresh and I could see green, lush grass. Again a vet came to give us the “all clear” and out we went into the sunshine to the green pasture and there I saw them: lot’s of other Texels. We eyed us up and kept a bit on our own – after all you never know these days! When evening came we all settled down and one of the old ewes pestered “Pioneer” to tell them about his adventures. Then I heard a sexy male voice with a distinct English accent telling about exactly the same trip we had made. It was fantastic! We all babbled out: “It’s from this place we come too!” and the ice was broken. There were talks all night long.

It’s a funny place this Switzerland. Heinz, our shepherd and owner is just the same as Ian: kind and friendly but not fast at running – we can beat him anytime. He got many visitors over the next few days all goggling at us and leaning over the fences, nearly falling in. They must have hard winters here – people all seem to have a kind of throat illness, they speak such a funny, guttural language. One of the older ewes I befriended is giving me language lessons so I will be bilingual in no time. I can already make out that the visitors are full of praise for us twenty: I’ve heard such words as “super stock, well muscled, great frame”. Heinz is as pleased as punch I can tell by his broad grin and although the visitors are making good offers he is reluctant to sell any of us. He plans to put us on show in autumn. I will remember what my mum used to say to me: “Hold your head up high girl, you’re a pure super pedigree Texel, not just an ordinary sheep.” So hopefully we will make Heinz proud.

My Swiss Texel friend “Liseli” (Swiss German for „Liz“ – see the funny language!!) told me that we will soon all go on a summer holiday up to the Alps. She says it’s nice and cool there during the hot months and the grass is green and very tasty, full of herbs. I asked her about the wolves and lynx and yes, there are some around. The Swiss shepherds are not happy about them and some of these predators already had very tragic fatal accidents….

We girls all hope that “Pioneer” the handsome English ram will join us for the holiday. Not just because he’s a compatriot but - oh - you should see him: He’s a real onlooker: The George Cloony of the sheepworld!

If I find time I’ll write you a postcard.

Best regards from lovely Switzerland.


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Texel Flock ‘Falicon’ Wins Top Award

Improved Flock Awards 2011
Norman Johnson – Falicon Texel Flock
21 March 2011

The Texel breed winner of the EBLEX Improved Flock Awards for 2011 is the Falicon Flock, owned by Norman Johnson who farms near Longridge in Lancashire.

Handbank Madoc
Handbank Madoc

Organised through the Sheep Better Returns Programme, this award is presented to the performance recorded flock that has shown the most impressive improvement in genetic merit over a 12-month period, within the breed.

Norman Johnson and his late wife Katie, bought the 12ha (30acre) Falicon Farm in 1979, when Mr Johnson was still a full-time farm vet, running a practice with his partner Glyn Davies, in Woodplumpton, near Preston.

Starting with a small flock of mules, the Johnson’s were impressed with lambs sired by a Texel tup bought to produce commercial crossbred lamb. The Falicon flock was established in 1991 when Mrs Johnson purchased three in-lamb ewes from the Carlisle sale. The mules were sold and replaced with purebred Texels, and the flock built up to 20 breeding ewes with rams bought-in. The aim was to produce a purebred carcase sheep. All lambs not retained for breeding are killed, aiming for an E3L classification. Shearling tups have been sold since 2002.

In 2007 the Johnson’s started recording birth and eight-week weights. As a vet, Mr Johnson admits he is more scientist than stock judge, and found the information on Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) he received back very useful in deciding which animals to keep. The following year some of the lambs were ultrasound scanned and in 2012 some will be sent away for CT scanning.

In the first year of recording the overall index for the flock was 150, rising to 278 last year. Out of 20 ram lambs, 17 were in the top 10% (highest index 336); out of 26 ewe lambs, 23 were in the top 10% (highest index 343).

Four years ago, the Johnson’s invested in a new stock sire ‘Handbank Madoc’, bought privately from pedigree breeders Bob and Anne Payne who farm near Sheffield. Previously they had always purchased rams based on looks and feel at pedigree sales.

The key traits they wanted to improve were growth rate, muscle depth and mature size. ‘Handbank Madoc’ has delivered improvements in all these attributes. His index has increased from 315 to 388 since being on the farm, and he regularly throws lambs with eye muscle measurements of 34-35mm or more.

In recognition of his success so far, Handbank Madoc has been nominated for the EBLEX Ram Linkage Scheme, which means other Texel breeders can now benefit from his superior genetics too.

“Katie would have been very proud of the genetic progress the flock has made and would have been delighted to win this award,” says Mr Johnson. “Much of the credit has to go to ‘Handbank Madoc’, and for that we have Bob and Anne Payne to thank.”

Most of Mr Johnson’s breeding stock is sold to commercial farmers, both off farm and through pedigree sales.

“My objective is to produce consistent commercial shearling tups that will deliver genetic gains when mated to commercial ewes,” Mr Jonson explains. “The ultimate aim is to help my customers produce more lean meat per hectare per day, as well as getting the lambs finished quicker.

“I will continue to try and improve growth rates, muscle deposition and gigot size – hopefully muscle depths will move towards the 40’s in the next few years.”

Recording performance is vital

“This is the fifth year Sheep BRP has made these awards,” says EBLEX sheep breeding specialist Samuel Boon. “The progress made since then has been significant, and many more producers – pedigree and commercial, are using tools like EBVs to help make their breeding decisions. This in turn is making their businesses more profitable and the industry more competitive as a whole.

“Norman is to be congratulated for his continuing commitment to improving the Texel breed.
Performance recording forms the backbone to his success, and he and his customers benefit from this more informed approach to breeding.”

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Controlling Internal parasites in your Texel Flock

Worms are a major threat to the health and performance of lambs and anthelmintics (wormers) are an essential part of good worm control. However, over recent years the sheep industry in the UK has become increasingly dependent on these relatively cheap products, and their frequent use (and sometimes misuse) has led to the development of resistance in the worm population.

SCOPS (Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep) was formed to develop strategies for parasite control in sheep. The latest SCOPS guidelines are:

  • Quarantine treatments – yard, treat (drench with monepantel and use injectable moxidectin), quarantine for three weeks on pasture which has already had sheep on this year
  • Always administer drenches correctly and at the right dose rate
  • Test for resistance
  • Look at your control strategy
  • Reduce dependence on anthelmintics where possible
  • Try to use anthelmintics only when necessary
  • Select the most appropriate anthelmintic
  • Preserve susceptible worms

EBLEX have a useful guide available and Texel members are encouraged to make best use of the information in the download.

Beef & Sheep Parasite Control Guide

NSA have reported that Scabivax supplies will be very tight

Intervet Schering Plough, (ISP) the makers of orf vaccine Scabivax are reporting that recent batches of the vaccine have not met approved specification levels and as a result it is very unlikely that sheep farmers will have access to the vaccine this coming season. ISP have assured NSA that they are doing all they can to ensure the quickest possible return of supply.

Following on from abortion vaccine supply issues last autumn, this latest vaccine issue demonstrates the challenges facing manufacturers of vaccines and the serious consequences it can have for sheep farmers. ISP have issued the following information which may be of use in terms of trying to deal with orf in the absence of vaccine. Concerned members should also contact their vet for further advice.

Alternative orf control strategies - Sheep farmers concerned about an orf problem in their flock should contact their vet for appropriate disease control advice. Steps that farmers can take to reduce the risk of disease outbreaks:

  • Orf is a virus that spreads via contact with infected material. The virus requires a break in the skin to infect an animal, so good hygiene and preventing access to rough pasture (e.g. grazing areas with thistles) will help.

  • Keep lambing areas clean, dry and well bedded. Plenty of bedding reduces the chance of animals coming into contact with infected scabs. Wet conditions also predispose sheep to skin traumas, which will allow the virus to enter the body.

  • Any infected ewes or lambs should be isolated immediately. This will reduce the risk of disease spread.

  • Any affected lambs, or lambs from badly affected ewes, should be managed, if possible, in a manor that helps to reduce pain and discomfort. Ill animals should also be fed artificially, paying scrupulous attention to hygiene of teats, bottles and utensils. Astringents such as crystal violet dressings may be useful to speed up natural recovery.

  • Orf is a self-limiting disease, so if secondary bacterial infections are controlled – for example, with the use of Engemycin Spray – natural healing should occur in 24 to 28 days.

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Calling Young Breeders IN WALES

The Young Entrants Support Scheme (YESS) has been extended for 12 months with almost £1.8 million available to new entrants.

Three areas are available for applications: a one off grant payment for capital expenses incurred in setting-up as head of holding; access to a dedicated young entrants’ business enabler service for advice on training, knowledge transfer and joint venture opportunities; and access to funded mentoring services from established farmers.

Expressions of interest are being accepted now, with applications open from 1st September 2014.

Contact Paul McCullough on 03000 622175 or

Information courtesy of NSA.

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