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Positive feedback for Texels at South Sheep

South Sheep 2016 at Tisbury, Wiltshire, proved a successful event for the Texel Sheep Society.

A pair of shearling rams provided by Drayton Farm Partnership drew positive comments from visitors, with the breed’s carcass attributes well recognised by those attending.

Southern Texel Club chair Georgie Helyer said the event had been another good outing for the breed in the south following on from the successful Southern Focus Show at Royal Bath and West just a week earlier.

“Texels continue to be the terminal sire of choice for large numbers of sheep producers in southern England and the Society’s presence at events such as South Sheep is vital to maintain contact with our commercial customers.

“While not a particularly sheep dense part of the world, much of the ground sheep run on in this part of the country is poorer land unsuited to arable production and as such the breed’s ability to thrive off any available forage is key to its success.”

Mrs Helyer added that a good number of local breeders had helped support the stand throughout the day, taking the chance to chat to commercial producers visiting the event.

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Texels prove popular at ScotSheep

ScotSheep 2016 held at Blythe Bank, West Linton, was a tremendous success for the Texel Sheep Society, with the Society’s stand busy throughout the event with both pedigree and commercial breeders catching up with the latest breed developments

The stand showcased the early results from the Society’s groundbreaking genomics research project looking at the genetics of mastitis and footrot within the breed, something many event visitors were keen to learn more about, explained Society chief executive John Yates.

“Without doubt the Society’s drive down the genomics route has captured the minds of sheep producers and many visitors spent time understanding how the research results could impact on their business in future.”

Alongside this the stand also had an excellent display of sheep courtesy of Andy Barr, Quothquan, Biggar, with a pen of Cheviot cross ewes rearing twin Texel prime lambs drawing many compliments throughout the day.

The Society’s competition to win a Ritchie weigh crate was also popular among visitors, with the four late March born lambs weighing in at 132Kg, with three successful entries out of the 340 received on the day now going forward to the prize draw at the Sheep Event Malvern. Mr Yates said the feedback from those attending the event was that Texels continue to perform commercially, outpacing other breeds and crosses as both terminal sires and replacement females.

“It was fitting that the Texel presence at the event proved popular with Blythe Bank having been the quarantine farm for the first Texels imported in to the UK more than 40 years ago.

“Those first Texel importations were driven by innovative farmers looking to provide a novel solution to industry problems of their day, notably the desire for leaner carcasses with greater conformation.

“The work being done by the Society today with genomics is very much a continuation of that pioneering outlook and once again seeks to provide commercial farmers with tools and a modern breed to help them run more efficient, sustainable sheep businesses,” he added.

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Cambwell flock's recording progress recognised by QMS

Biggar, Lanarkshire-based Texel breeders Robert and Joyce Laird are the 2016 winners of the Johnston Carmichael Trophy for the best recorded flock in Scotland.

The Laird family’s Cambwell flock, one of the oldest Texel flocks in the UK, has been performance recorded for the past 30 years, with huge genetic improvements seen in recent years thanks to careful recording and analysing of data, followed up by excellent management decisions and good husbandry.

The Lairds farm about 400 acres of mostly LFA grassland where they run 60 suckler cows, 80 pedigree Texels and 240 commercial ewes. "We use recorded Angus bulls on the suckler herd and sell the steers deadweight. I think you really see the value of performance recording from the carcases and can see the genetic improvements. I have adopted the same principle with the sheep and can easily see the benefits to the flock," said Mr Laird.

The Lairds are particularly keen on positive fat and muscle EBVs. "Growth is important too, but I feel that performance recording can be too geared towards growth rates. I am mindful of keeping easy-fleshed, medium-sized sheep, which is what the commercial market wants."

Mr Laird is convinced there is a link between positive fat and longevity and has seen improvements in his flock in many areas such as growth, milk, fleshing ability and longevity. Indeed he has some ewes which are eight years old.

The Lairds have also paid great attention to detail in terms of the health of both flocks which are scrapie monitored and MV accredited. This, along with the performance recording, has opened up the world market to them and the first shipment of 10 Cambwell Texels were exported to Switzerland in 2014.

Last year they sent 26 sheep to Holland, Switzerland and Italy and have benefitted from semen sales to Brazil, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Canada and the US.

About 40 tup lambs and 20 shearlings are sold in Britain each year with their best price in 2003 being 50,000gns for Cambwell Jacobite. Last year the shearlings averaged £800 and the lambs £1000. They also sell surplus females as in-lamb gimmers and these have sold to a top of 16,000gns.

Some of the home-bred Texels are used on the commercial flock which has the same high health status as the pedigree flock. “As a result we have a good market for breeding females as recipient ewes. Therefore, we select for growth and female traits as well as fast finishing," observed Mr Laird. The wether lambs are sold through Lanark market or on the hook and are mostly U grades with some R at an average of 21kg deadweight.

The flock is also one of the first to be involved with the Texel genomics project which aims to identify genes resistant to foot rot and mastitis."When you see the genetic improvements the dairy, beef and pig industries have achieved over the years through recording, there is no reason for it not to work with sheep - it is the same science and mindset. I am delighted to receive this trophy from QMS which recognises the gains my flock has made thanks to recording."

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Margaret Mulligan - Brague Texels

The Society has been informed that Margaret Mulligan – Brague Texels, passed away on May 25th. Our condolences go to Robert and the Mulligan family at this sad time.

A funeral will take place on Friday 27th May at 12.30 at the Loughbrickland Presbyterian Church,  80 Ballynanny Rd, Banbridge,  BT32 4LB

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Win a weight crate with Texels

The Texel Sheep Society is offering farmers attending two major sheep industry events, ScotSheep. West Linton, and The Sheep Event, Malvern, the chance to win a weigh crate to help with selecting lambs to meet target specification.

To be in with a chance of winning the Ritchie weigh crate valued at £900 visitors to the events will need to visit the Texel Sheep Society stand and take part in the relevant competition.

At ScotSheep this will be a ‘Guess the Weight’ competition, while at The Sheep Event it will be Stockjudging competition, explained Texel Sheep Society chief executive John Yates.

“With lamb prices coming under pressure early in the season this year the ability to accurately weigh lambs and market stock suited to processors needs has never been greater.

"As the UK's most popular terminal sire breed the Texel is clearly meeting the needs of the current market. But there are always new challenges around the corner and in challenging conditions it is important that prime lamb producers do all they can to meet the needs of processors and in turn consumers,” he added.

“Lamb buyers are becoming ever more specific about the lambs they require for their customers and presenting lambs at the right weight and fat cover is essential to maximising returns. It is all too easy to allow lambs to gain a few extra kilos in the hope of the extra weight cancelling out lower prices, but this can be a false hope, with heavier lambs often discounted for being overfat or overweight.

"Selling lambs of the right weight and with the excellent conformation offered by the Texel breed is a sure way to gain premium prices," said Mr Yates.

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Texel genomic research to be showcased at ScotSheep

Sheep farmers attending next week's Scotsheep 2016 at Blythbank farm, West Linton, will be able to learn about the early results from ground breaking genomic research undertaken by the British Texel Sheep Society. It is fortuitous that these early stage results are being showcased at Blyth Bank, said Texel Sheep Society chief executive John Yates, with the farm having been the quarantine farm for the first Texels imported in the country more than 40 years ago.


“Those first Texel importations were driven by innovative farmers looking to provide a novel solution to industry problems of their day, notably the desire for leaner carcasses with greater conformation.

“The work being done by the Society today with genomics is very much a continuation of that pioneering outlook and once again seeks to provide commercial farmers with tools and a modern breed to help them run more efficient, sustainable sheep businesses,” he added.

“The research, which has initially focussed on health traits, has delivered meaningful results. Although the initial 18 month project data collection runs until August, the early outcomes are encouraging, which will help support a new platform for delivery of genomic breeding values from the Society, the first to be available in the UK sheep industry.

“When we started this project we believed it would result in important developments for both the breed and the UK sheep industry and the results to date bear this out, supporting the development of our genomic reference population. This is  a valuable resource for the Society allowing for new services and new research opportunities”

Mr Yates said that once the full results had been collated and analysed this Autumn the development of genomic estimated breeding values (gEBVs) would follow. “gEBVs are calculated differently to conventional EBVs. Traditionally EBVs have been based on measured performance on farm and within a contemporary group.

However, gEBVs are calculated by using the animals DNA and comparing the individual to the large genomic reference population developed by the Texel Society. The critical link is the SNP key which allows a genomic value to be calculated; by using the animal’s DNA, the reference population and the specific trait measurements.

“This enables the prediction of an animal’s breeding merit and its ideally suited for traits that are often hard to measure, such as udder and foot health or carcass quality.

“The calculation of gEBVs does though rely on the continued collection of data from a wide section of the population, something the Texel Sheep Society will be undertaking through its network of pedigree phenotyping farms across the UK, explained Mr Yates.

The economic and welfare impacts of both mastitis and footrot on the industry cannot be overstated, with estimates suggesting each case of footrot costs more than £8/ewe, with further lost productivity costs amounting to up to £3/ewe, he said.

“Additionally, it is believed that the industry loses 7-12% of breeding ewes across all types of breeds a year due to intramammary infections. Both of these conditions can also cause significant welfare issue for affected sheep, something every farmer wants to avoid.”

As with all diseases, prevention is far better than cure, but due to the environmentally infective nature of both these diseases, prevention can be difficult, particularly in the case of mastitis, he said.

With Texel sired ewes making up more than 12.5% of the national flock and more than 30% of sires used the impact of the breed commercially is second to none, he added. “As a result the potential impact of this research is worth millions of pounds for the industry and will give significant benefit to commercial producers across the UK and, potentially, through the ever increasing number of exports, sheep industries across the globe.”

Mr Yates concluded: “The growing importance of the maternal role of Texel genetics in the UK sheep flock indicates there may be further opportunities for economic and genetic gain for the breed, through an increased focus on maternal ewe traits for breed improvement in the future. These are exciting times for Texel breeders, with access to the latest breeding tools and a clear focus of support and development available from the Society.”

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Farm Animal Genetics Resources Committee Latest Developments

The Farm Animal Genetics Resources committee (FAnGR) advises Defra and Devolved administrations on issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of farm animal genetic resources. A paper has been prepared highlighting the latest developments on these. This paper advises on the use of current and future technologies relevant to breeding and preservation of farm animal genetic resources.

Click on the link below for more information.

Review of current and new technologies relevant to FAnGR. 

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NADIS Sheep Fertility Resource May 2016

Each week NADIS will be emailing you with a topical animal health resource that reflects the seasonal disease challenge livestock face.

Abortion in ewes

An abortion rate in excess of two percent is suggestive of an infectious cause and veterinary investigation is essential at an early stage. More information.

Ram Disease Pre- and Post-Sale

As a consequence of high concentrate feeding often in preparation for sale, rams are prone to several conditions. More information.

Ram Management

Although the breeding period on many intensive sheep farming enterprises may only extend to five or six weeks, effective management of rams necessitates all year round attention. More information.

Mating for Early Lambing

The onset of the breeding season can be manipulated by:

  • The ram effect
  • Melatonin implant
  • PMSG injections following progesterone sponges

More information.


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USA and New Zealand markets open to UK genetics

Exports of both semen and embryos to New Zealand and the USA are now possible, following the granting of export certificates for UK genetics for both countries.

Exports of both semen and embryos to New Zealand and the USA are now possible, following the granting of export certificates for UK genetics for both countries.

While the export certificates recently granted impose some tough health conditions on donor animals and their flocks, the granting of these certificates will enable Texel breeders to take advantage of the demand for top quality genetics from both countries, explains Texel Sheep Society chief executive John Yates.

“Much behind the scenes work has gone in to gaining approval for these certificates and it is no small part due to the demand shown for British Texel genetics that these arrangements have finally been put in place.

“Working closely with DEFRA through the UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP) the Texel Society has lobbied for these certificates to be put in place to ensure our breeders can fulfil the wishes of clients in both countries,” he explained.

Breeders who have received enquiries from either the USA or New Zealand are urged to contact their preferred artificial breeding services provider and their local vet to ascertain if their flocks and individual stock can meet the various health requirements of the relevant export certificate.  Exports always sound attractive and can be added income to domestic sales, but are fraught with detail and risk if not managed carefully. The key is to plan ahead and ensure you get the best advice from your local and specialist vet service providers ASAP, so you are best placed to advise your overseas contacts,’ added Mr Yates.

“We know there is demand for British Texels in both countries from previous contact from both New Zealand and American breeders and it will be important to act quickly to ensure the relevant health tests can be completed in time for collection to take place.”

Full details of the health certificates for the USA and New Zealand can be found at

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Barbara Gamble – Springwell Texels

The Society has sadly been informed that Mrs Barbara Gamble passed away peacefully on May 4, 2016, at Edgewater Care Home, Donaghadee. Barbara was a Northern Ireland Club Council Member and a recipient of the Texel Society Presidents award for her contribution to the Texel breed.

Formerly of Hill Farm, Springwell Road, Groomsport, loving wife of the late Robert and dear Mother of Roberta and Henry, cherished mother-in-law of Paddy and Alice and devoted grandmother of James, Sarah, Catherine, Robert and Anna.

A service of Thanksgiving in Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church, Bangor 7th May (Saturday) at 12.30.  Family flowers only please. Donations may be sent, if desired, to Alzheimer’s Society, c/o S. Clarke & Son, Funeral Directors, 64 Newtownards Road, Bangor, BT20 4DR. 

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