The "LOWERYE" flock of British Charollais Sheep.
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    Archived News Items.

2005 Premier Sale.

    We had a very successful sale at Worcester Market in July. We sold 4 ram lambs to average just short of 1,000gns.

- L.Firefly (ZVY 5121), who was 1st prize ram lamb at the 3 Counties Show in June and had a breed index of 399, joined the Few's flock in Worcestershire at 1,000 gns. 

- L.Firestarter (ZVY 5086), my favourite lamb in the pen and with a hindquarter to die for, had a breed index of 355 and sold at 1,000 gns to E.Probert & Sons' Mortimer flock.

- L.Frankie (ZVY 5089), an ET brother to L.Firefly that had scanned with an eye muscle of 40.5mm and had a breed index of 371. He joins the Carnevas flock of Roger Brewer in Cornwall at 900 gns.

- L.Ferdie (ZVY 5073) was a very showy lamb by L.Evangelist out of a L.Aristocrat daughter with a tremendously strong head. He had a breed index of 322 and sold at 1,000 gns to Dave Smith's Nympton flock in Devon.

    Many thanks to all who purchased and good luck.

New Purchase.

    We also purchased a ram lamb from Arwyn Thomas' Arjane flock a little later in the sale. Arjane Flasharo (ZRF 5017) is a very smart lamb with massive hind quarters by last year's top priced shearling ram, the 6,000 gns Galtres Dominator (ZKT 3025). Flasharo is the highest index son of Dominator to date, with a breed index of 310. He is out of a daughter of Highway Mr Softie who was Champion at the Royal Show in 1999 and is the sire of Lowerye Bert (ZVY 1001). The ewe has already bred several stock sires and has been flushed for ET this year. 

    Flasharo is a three quarter brother to the 2 Castellau ram lambs that sold later in the sale at 5,200 gns and 4,400 gns, both being by Galtres Dominator and out of a Highway Mr Softie daughter.

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Sire Reference Selection Day.

    We were pleased to have a son of Lowerye Eric (ZVY 4090) selected for use as a sire reference ram for 2006. ZVY 5068 is a long, tall ram with a perfectly level topline. Like his sire, he has fantastic width throughout and scanned at 39.6 mm eye muscle. His index is 423, placing him right at the top end of recorded sheep. His dam, ZVY 1164, is an incredibly fleshy daughter of Rutland Archie, successful stock sire in the Inglis flock and siring rams to 2,200 gns.

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3 Counties Show (June 2005).

    Having not shown anywhere since 2000, we decided to have a go at the 3 Counties Show at Malvern. We were delighted to win both the ram lamb and ewe lamb classes with progeny of Lowerye Eric (ZVY 4090). The ram lamb (who will be at the Worcester Premier Sale on 9th July) has an index of 399 and the ewe lamb, described by the judge as "the only E grade lamb that he handled on the day", was our joint highest index ewe lamb at 462. Who says that high index sheep don't look the part or lack shape!

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Signet report (June 2005).

    Wow, Eric has certainly produced the goods! 14 of the top 20 index lambs are from the Lowerye flock. Our average lamb has an index of 332, which is in the top 10% of recorded stock. The performance of Eric's progeny has increased his scan wt ebv, his muscle depth ebv and his fat depth ebv. He now has an overall index of 405 and an eye muscle ebv of +6.84mm. All that on top of being "one hell of a ram". 

    The next highest eye muscle ebv is that of Eric's sire, Westonvale Apostle (XBB 0004), at +6.12mm, and the next highest after that is +5.47mm. Several of Eric's progeny have eye muscle ebvs of +5mm or more and I can see no other lambs of any other breeding in the report with that level of fleshing.

    Most of our top rated lambs are by Eric, however, the top index lamb in the breed is by reference ram Rutland Domingo (out of a Lionheart daughter of course!). He has an index of 487 and I had sent him up to be CT scanned as I felt he had more full loin than had been shown from ultrasound scanning. I turned out right when he was shown to have the highest eye muscle area ever recorded, that area is 10% higher than last year's top lamb, Lowerye Ernie. The CT scan picture shows that his eye muscle, the meat in the chop, is incredibly full to it's full width. That picture would make a good advert for performance recorded stock!          

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Ultrasound Scanning 2005.

    Ultrasound scanning  for backfat and eye muscle depth was carried out on 11/5/05. The results showed further progress had most definitely been made. Our heaviest lamb weighed in at 87 kg (a Westonvale Apostle triplet and Scrapie group 2 of course!)  with half a dozen more at 80kg or more. The best eye muscle depth recorded was 42.7mm, which I am told is the best muscle recorded so far this year by quite some margin. In all we had 4 ram lambs and a ewe lamb with eye muscle depths in excess of 40mm and quite a number more "knocking on the door", all of these top muscle lambs are by new stock sire Lowerye Eric (ZVY 4090) and should confirm his position as the highest muscle Charollais ram ever recorded. 

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Sire Reference Selection Day 2004.

    The selection of sire reference rams for use in the scheme in 2005 resulted in selection of the "Dream Team". The team consists of the 1st prize ram lamb from the Royal Show 2004, Rutland Ensign, the highest price ram lamb from the 2004 Premier Sale, Logie Durno Earl of Dunbar, and our own Lowerye Eric, who is the highest muscle and muscularity ebv charollais EVER recorded.

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Flock Competition 2004.

    In the 2004 Central Region flock competition we were again Reserve to the Champion flock.  We again showed the whole flock of 140 ewes and 60 shearlings in its entirety (with even the ET recipients left in!). We were again awarded the Champion flock of ewes in the southern area and 2nd prize junior stock sire (with Lowerye Eric, ZVY 4090). Double Entendre was awarded 3rd prize in the stock ram competition and the shearling ewes were given 3rd prize. We showed all of our 85 ewe lambs as a single group and were awarded 2nd prize, perhaps I should have hidden half as the rules allow! 

    My thanks go to Roger Brewer from Cornwall for doing what must be an incredibly difficult job and nearly getting it right! Oh well, perhaps next year.

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Is the National Scrapie Plan Working?

    Analysis of genotype results gathered by the NSP so far shows that breeding for resistance to scrapie is having the desired effect of reducing the number of susceptible sheep in the population. Click here to see report. 

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Market Prices (spring 2004).

    Having about finished lambing our commercial flock at the end of March, we took 140 cull ewes, the last 12 hoggets and the first 20 early lambs over the next fortnight. Our cull ewes sold to an blistering trade with the 90 Texel X and 50 Charollais ewes making to a top of 86 and averaging 76. The hoggets made to 68 and the culled Charollais lambs made to 76. Not a bad couple of weeks work and certainly a good advertisement for the live market!

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Flock Competition 2003.

    We are proud and delighted to have been awarded Champion flock in the Southern Area of the Central Region flock competition. We were also awarded the Champion flock of shearling ewes in that competition and 2nd prize junior stock sire (with Lowerye Double Entendre, ZVY 3162). It is the first time that we have entered in 3 years and we showed the whole flock of 140 ewes and 60 shearlings in its entirety (with even the ET recipients left in!) and I must say they look to have thrived on the non-existent grazing that we have had this year. My thanks go to the judge, Clive Hopper from the Gogwell (NF) flock in Devon, for the excellent job that he did!!!!

Lowerye flock 2003    Lowerye flock 2003

Lowerye flock ewes (Oct '03).

    The overall Champion flock in the Central Region was awarded to the Blythe flock of Mary Madders and Stuart Johnson. Congratulations to them both.   

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Ram Sales 2003.

    Wow, what a year! The only rams that we have sold at auction have been at the Premier Sale. We have sold the other 75 shearlings and 7 ram lambs from home, including 3 cracking sons of Lowerye Bert exported to Eire and 2 high index ram lambs to a trial at Hillsborough in Northern Ireland.

    I only wish that I had more rams to sell and have ended up buying on behalf of a customer at Builth II in September as I had not got enough rams for him. In the next 3 weeks after Builth I received 7 phone calls from farmers trying to source strong shearling rams. I don't think there can be many left in the country and next year will be the same as many rams are being sold as lambs to a fantastically buoyant trade. The Charollais breed is certainly gaining market share in the terminal sire sector as the breed proves itself from the lowlands to the hills.

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Premier Sale 2003 (5/7/2003).

    What a sale! The sheep trade is buoyant, everyone was confident of a good ram trade and everyone wanted a new stock ram. All of the rams at the sale were of R1 genotype for the first time and all were subjected to breed evaluation for the first time (instead of judging!). This is a system where the rams are individually scored by teams of three evaluators (of which I am honoured to be one) on each of a number of traits giving a description of the strengths and weaknesses of the animal, the scores are then added together and a Gold, Silver, Bronze (or no) award is given. The new system worked well, although perhaps needs speeding up in future, and the best rams were given the top awards regardless of who had bred them (unlike so many times with normal judging!). The buyers obviously had great confidence in the new system as the prices achieved closely followed the evaluation score.

    The trade got higher and higher as the sale progressed as it became more and more evident that there was immense competition for the best sheep. 

    Our first lamb, Lowerye Dare Devil (ZVY 3070), made our best ever price of 1,800gns to the Wraycastle (DW) flock of J&R Geldard. Our second lamb, Lowerye Double Diamond (ZVY 3132) sold to the Camphouse flock of R. Towers for 1,050gns and our pen of 5 averaged a very pleasing 900gns. Our Shearling pen did not fare so well with the 3 making 400, 500 and 600gns. They had been marked quite low on the evaluation scheme as they lacked the fat cover of some of the other shearlings forward. They certainly proved to be the bargains of the day, the first made 600gns to J. Maxwell's Fordham flock who later told me that he had been prepared to go to 1,500 for him. I had been told the previous day by several noted breeders that he would be top price of the sale! Our second shearling made 500gns to John Davies' Windmill flock. John used him on his flock and then resold him at Builth Wells in August where he was 3rd prize shearling and made the joint top price of all breeds in the sale at 900gns. Well done John, now that's what I call a profit margin although I am sure that you will regret selling him when you see the lambs!!!!!

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Ultrasound Scanning 2003.

    We have scanned the lambs a little earlier than usual this year (6/5/03), the oldest lambs being 156 days old. As a result, our actual eye muscles and scan weights are slightly lower than usual, that said, our best eye muscle was from our very best looking ewe lamb, ZVY 3084, which is the result of ET of Rutland Chieftain on a Lionheart daughter. She scanned with an fantastic eye muscle depth of 39.3mm and a fat depth of 4.3mm. Ram lambs scanned to a top of 38.7mm for ZVY 3122, a son of top choice sire reference ram, Lowerye Charlie out of a daughter of Bryncaer Bouncer (WX 5032). That same ewe had a grandson, ZVY 3132, by Mortimer Majestic (HH 9026) that scanned with a useful 34.3mm and 4.7mm fat. 

    The general run of lambs scanned quite pleasingly and averaged around the mid-thirties for eye muscle depth. One disappointment was the progeny of unrecorded ram Mortimer Majestic, whose lambs look incredibly well fleshed but mostly scanned at around 30mm eye muscle. Lambs by reference ram, Hyde Bombardier, who has an exceptional eye muscle EBV, scanned well but not exceptionally. Lambs by Lowerye Bert, Lowerye Charlie and Lowerye Clyde all compared well and are much more pleasing on the eye. The progeny of Lowerye Casper, a high index son of Bert, are extremely stylish and fleshy but have perhaps not excelled in eye muscle depths, as predicted from his EBV. Our lambs by Rutland Chieftain, a full brother to top ranked stock ram, Rutland Alamos, are variable with some scanning exceptionally well and ranging from 28mm to 39mm.

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Market Prices - 26/3/03.

    Having as good as finished lambing our commercial flock, we booked an articulated lorry and headed off to Worcester market with the lorry and our trailer in convoy. In total we took 100 cull ewes, the last 60 hoggets and the first 15 early lambs. Our cull ewes sold to an incredible trade with the 60 Texel X and 40 Charollais ewes making to a top of 83 and averaging 79 making this is the best trade that we have EVER had for cull ewes! The last of last year's lambs topped the heavy lamb section of the market with 49kg making 134.5p/kg (65.90) having had no concentrate feeding whatsoever. The "springers" were still a bit early to the market but being overweight already I thought it best that they were sold. They levelled at a pleasing 71 each (45kg). All in all, a good day out!

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2003 Lamb Crop.

    The 2003 lamb crop is our best yet. We lambed 125 ewes in the first week of December and had 225 live lambs born. It has been the easiest lambing that I can remember with lively lambs and stacks of milk from the ewes. Most of the ewes with big teats or lower milk yields have been culled so that we have practically been able to put them in an individual pen for 24 hours after lambing and leave them to get on with it. Bliss!

    At 8 weeks old, the lambs have been weaned and are taking creep feed ad-lib. They are presently taking 1.25 kg/head/day and looking very well on it with the biggest having reached 40 kg and the general run at 30-35 kg. As a bunch they are well fleshed with wide loins and deep gigots, there are quite masculine about the head with real power in most of the ram lambs. They have a little more head cover than in the past, as is the general trend in the breed. The BCSS birth notification system having changed this year, notification has to be carried out for December lambs by the end of January and I have had a real problem finding enough lambs with faults to cull at this early stage, inevitably meaning that I have paid to notify some lambs that will be culled later. One thing that I shall be culling on this year, for the first time in earnest, is scrapie genotype. All of my replacement ewe lambs this year will be genotyped ARR/ARR as even the EU has started to push down this road, though science, as usual, has little to do with it. We are to breed RR sheep because of a HYPOTHETICAL risk that sheep will get BSE from cattle, when the link between BSE in cattle and any human health risk is purely hypothetical and totally unproven despite millions being spent on research!!!!!

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2003 Sire Reference Rams.

    Lowerye Charlie (ZVY 2019) has been selected as first choice ram lamb for the 2003 sire reference team, polling more than twice the number of votes as the next choice. Charlie is the highest index son of Arjane Master Mac (ZRF 8004) in the scheme in 2002 and was first prize ram lamb at Moreton-in-Marsh Show in September. His semen has already been exported to inseminate Charollais ewes in the Netherlands.

    The other rams chosen were 2 sons of Rutland Alamos (ZFY 2157 and ZXW 2045) and a son of Grimston Athos (ZPH 2059).

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Another new arrival at Lower Rye Farm.

    Born in Cheltenham, Glos. on the 7th of October 2002, Archie Joseph Henry Oughton weighed 7lb 14oz. He is exhibiting an excellent growth potential putting on just over 1lb a week at a month old. Early indications are of a rugby playing shepherd, going hunting at weekends and with eyes bigger than his belly!

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Moreton-in-Marsh Show (7/9/2002).

       Our local show at Moreton-in-Marsh was held on the first Saturday in September. We entered a few sheep late in order to bolster numbers in the Charollais classes, the current DEFRA restrictions making attendance a burden and drastically reducing entries in all breeds. We were delighted that the judge, Mr Geraint Lloyd from South Wales, placed our ram lamb, Lowerye Charlie (ZVY 2019), first in his class, more importantly, he greatly impressed everyone who saw him and we sold a few shearling rams off the back of him.

   

    We also had a 3rd prize in the older ewe and a 3rd in the shearling ewe class behind the eventual Interbreed Champion from Jenny Curtis (DQ flock). Our two year old ewe, shown straight from the field, was put down because "she was up against 2 ewes that had been to a few more shows" and our shearling ewe was put down because of an udder fault, which was actually a scar in front of the udder from the ET procedure performed in July! Oh well, the judge is always right.

    We also entered lambs in the butchers lamb classes were we received a 3rd and a 5th prize behind some very tidy Beltex X Texels. We had already won the commercial sheep flock competition and the commercial ram competition that the show society holds in May each year, so getting a place in the butchers lamb classes wins us the Champion Shepherd award and a 50 prize, so the competition was well worth entering!

    An enjoyable day out was had by all.

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New Stock Ram.

    We are delighted to have been able to acquire an exceptional new stock sire for the Lowerye flock. Westonvale Apostle (XBB 0004) has been purchased privately from the Pen-Y-Fan flock of Erica Summerfield, which was dispersing. Apostle is a big, powerful ram carrying exceptional fleshing over the loin and rump, with deep, hard gigots. He is absolutely correct in every way and should complement our Lionheart daughters perfectly. He is a full brother of Westonvale Jubilee who was 1st prize ram lamb at the 1999 Premier Sale and sold for 2,800 gns to the Foulrice flock where he is doing sterling work. Apostle was sold for the top price of 4,100 gns at the 2000 Premier Sale where he weighed in at over 100 kg at 7 months of age! He has grown on well and weighed 145kg when we fetched him, after running with ewes for a month.

Westonvale Apostle.

    Click here for full details of our new purchase.

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Sire Reference Report 2002.

    This year, the LOWERYE flock has bred the highest index ram lamb in the sire reference scheme. ZVY 2089 has a scheme index of 420 and is a son of reference ram, Hyde Sirocco (SU 9066) out of a huge daughter of Foulrice Lionheart. Unfortunately he has a scrapie genotype of ARR/ARQ which makes me rule him out for pedigree use. Our second highest rated lamb, and the 9th highest rated in the scheme, is a different kettle of fish. Lowerye Charlie (ZVY 2019) is a triplet born son of Arjane Master Mac (ZRF 8004) out of a daughter of Foulrice Lionheart (DG 5137), has a genotype of ARR/ARR and a scheme index of 367. He is absolutely correct in EVERY way and has bags of show style. He has really stood out ever since he was born and I consider him to be the best son of Master Mac that I have seen. We think so much of Charlie that he already has his own web page HERE.

Lowerye Charlie.     Lowerye Charlie (ZVY 2019)    Lowerye Charlie (ZVY 2019)    Lowerye Charlie (ZVY 2019)

    Charlie is a huge, long, tall ram from litter that were all good lambs, the ewe really "nicking" with Master Mac. His dam is by Foulrice Lionheart out of a daughter of Glenbrook Duke (NT 2030) who was Champion at the Royal Show in 1994. That ewe was the result of an ET flush of Duke on the dam of Belbroughton Grandmaster (DJ 1001) who won many championships in his time and bred many well fleshed champions.

    We also had a son of reference ram Hyde Sirocco (SU 9066) with a 40mm eye muscle and an index of 346. He is also out of a Lionheart daughter and has a genotype of ARR/ARR.

    Lowerye Bert (ZVY 1001) has increased his scheme index to 287 making him higher index than his father, Highway Mr Softie (ZDG 8014) who was RASE Champion 1999, and the highest index son of that ram. He had lambs up to a scheme index of 352 (ZVY 2072) and 309 (ZVY 2073) and both are genotyped ARR/ARR. We have retained both for AI in July 2002.

ZVY 2072 ZVY 2072.               ZVY 2073 ZVY 2073.

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    Ultrasound scanning (16/5/2002).

        We have just had our best scanning day yet. We have 4 lambs with a scan weight of over 80 kg - one by Lowerye Bert (ZVY 1001), one by Lowerye Archie (ZVY 0052), one by Hyde Sirocco (SU 9066) and one by Arjane Master Mac (ZRF 8004). The last three are all out of Lionheart daughters! In 1999 we had the only lamb in the sire reference scheme with over 40mm eye muscle (Lowerye Lotto, ZVY 9011), in 2000 there were none, in 2001 there were 2 lambs to my knowledge that scanned in excess of 40 mm. This year we have 3 ram lambs and a ewe lamb with eye muscles measuring in excess of 40 mm and several more that are pretty close! Almost all feature Foulrice Lionheart high up in their pedigree. 

    Reference ram Hyde Sirocco has once again thrown very high eye muscles but most are lacking in quality. The other reference ram that we used, Carnevas Ascender (YHM 0062) has given us some tremendous lambs but they seem to lack the extreme eye muscle that his index predicted that he should throw and yet they have the fat depth.

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    Easter Sales 2002.

        The hogget trade does not seem to be as good as it should have been, held back by supermarket pressure and costly F&M regulations imposed by DEFRA - why aren't the same regulations imposed on meat imports, still coming in from countries where Foot and Mouth disease is endemic?????? Here's an interesting little .gif I found showing DEFRA helping UK agriculture:

    Hoggets seem to have stuck at around 100 p/kg liveweight, up to 115 p/kg for the best. Cull ewes and spring lambs have been a different story. Through several years of having severely depressed prices, many farmers have stopped producing high cost spring lamb for the Easter market. Along with the early Easter this year, this has conspired to produced a shortage of lambs and incredible demand for both the home and export trade. Several markets in the week before Easter saw spring lambs average in excess of 200 p/kg liveweight. Our own cull lambs averaged in excess of 60 from mid-March to mid-April, up by 50% on 12 months ago. The Texel X lambs have all now been sold, most having got almost too fat at 36 kg, my Charollais culls at the same age were mostly 45kg + and still lean enough!  

At the time of writing (28/4), a few more lambs have come to the market and prices have dropped but good lambs are still making 50 per head.

    Cull ewes have been an almost ridiculous trade. We took 58 cull ewes (Charollais and X-bred)  to market on April 10th and averaged 2p short of 75, having narrowly missed the top price of 85 per head. The following week the bubble had burst nationwide, we took another 52 cull ewes and averaged 48. Twenty of these ewes were admittedly poorer than the previous week but we achieved the top price by quite a margin at 59.50, such was the price drop. Still, we averaged a little over 60 for all of our culls sold, most having reared lambs this year, a price not seen since Spring of 1996 when there was panic buying of sheepmeat in the wake of the BSE announcement on beef.

    2002 lamb crop.

    The 2002 lamb crop continue to look well having had an incredibly kind spring's weather on them. All lambs are running out to good grass and the best lambs are now (28/4) in excess of 70 kg. All of the shearling rams and the December born ram lambs have been genotyped by the National Scrapie Plan (NSP) with nearly 75% being ARR/ARR. We have a few exceptional lambs by Arjane Master Mac (ZRF 8004) but these seem to be extremely variable. I have retained only 5 ewe lambs from 19 good ewes that were in lamb to him. I have several strong ram lambs by reference ram, Carnevas Ascender (YHM 0062) who we used predominantly on daughters of senior stock sire, Foulrice Lionheart. 9 out of 10 ewes put to this ram were in lamb and from these I have retained 7 ewe lambs. This is the highest retention rate we have ever had for a reference ram. Lowerye Archie (ZVY 0052) has left us some strong lambs with tremendously powerful heads. Lowerye Bert (ZVY 1001) has given us some of our biggest lambs, they are long, stylish and well fleshed and he has really filled out the back ends on some of the ewes he was put to. We wait with anticipation for their scanning results (scanning on May 16th) but they certainly look promising so far. The same can be said of the lambs from Mortimer Majestic (HH 9026) who has no signet records at all. His January born lambs look full of flesh though perhaps a little lighter than some. We only had 2 ram lambs born by him but both have tremendous gigots and full loins, but then both were out of very strong, high index ewes!

    Old boy, Foulrice Lionheart (DG 5137) has again bred some exceptionally strong lambs despite being limited to use on an ever decreasing number of unrelated ewes. I have retained yet another 8 females by him. Almost all of the best lambs by the other rams used are out of Lionheart daughters which are, almost without exception, prolific and milky ewes breeding long, well fleshed, correct, stylish lambs. It is getting extremely hard to cull enough ewe lambs now!

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      Lambing time 2001.

    As I write this in December 2001, things are looking much more positive for the sheep industry, despite DEFRA's best efforts! Exports of lamb have just begun from "free" counties albeit with a huge extra burden in terms of paperwork and costs and, surprise surprise, the home market appears to be able to pay 30% more now that there is a little competition! Lamb is in short supply and prospects look good for the new season.

    We have just finished lambing the first 120 ewes in the pedigree flock and the lambs are going on well. We have some good RR ram lambs by Lowerye Bert (ZVY 1001), our Mr Softie son, by sire reference ram Carnevas Ascender (YHM 0062), another Mr Softie son, and by senior stock sire Foulrice Lionheart (DG 5137). Lambs of Arjane Master Mac (ZRF 8004) seem a little variable in quality but they are all growing fast (as his EBV's would suggest) and their are several ram lambs, resulting from the purchase of 20 doses of frozen semen, which look very promising. Hopefully at least one will be good enough for pedigree use. 

    As we did not do an ET program this year, I allowed our recipient ewes to be inseminated by a trainee vet so as to lamb with the pedigree ewes and to maintain their high health status. As they were to rear lambs for the Easter market and I know that Charollais lambs would grow too fast (especially with the advantage of hybrid vigour), I stipulated that they must be inseminated with semen from a "Dutch" type Texel ram. This certainly appears to have worked well! 20 ewes lambed in early December to the Texel ram and the lambs had a similar birth weight to the Charollais. Of the 41 lambs born, 15 had in-turned eyelids, a hereditary fault for which Texels are known and which can usually be remedied by rolling out the eyelid several times a day for several days. This is relatively simple with a small number of early lambs in a building, in the field in March it is a different matter!

    At the time of writing, the lambs are 3 weeks of age and the purebred Charollais are already several kgs heavier than the X-bred Texels. It will be interesting to see how far behind the Texels have slipped by the time the Charollais lambs reach 40 kg! 

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  Sheep farming - the next few years (a few controversial thoughts)!

    My view of sheep farming over the next couple of years is one of boom time. We are told that 15% of the national ewe flock has been lost due to DEFRA's culling and Foot and Mouth disease with 40% of the North Country Mule producing flocks culled out. The remaining Swaledales will be bred pure to restock the hills so Mules will be almost impossible to buy for several years. The answer for most farmers in this area of the country seems to be to keep Suffolk X Mule ewe lambs back for breeding. These will lead to a more difficult lambing so there will probably be a need for another maternal breed to be crossed in. Breeders of Lleyn sheep are already reporting an upsurge in the (usually low) demand for rams for this purpose. I would think that a Lleyn on a Suffolk X Mule would breed a useful sort of female sheep. Another possible option will be to keep a Texel X Mule as a replacement female, though perhaps giving a little away in growth rate and prolificacy.

    The ideal, and some would say only, top cross to put over any of these X-bred ewes would be a Charollais. As such I can see that there will be a huge increase in demand for Charollais rams and the breed will see a huge, and well deserved, gain in share of the terminal sire market. For a few years demand will probably outstrip supply and the challenge will be to maintain the standards of quality needed as numbers increase rapidly. 

    Due to the reduction of the national sheep flock and the slight reduction in prolificacy from keeping the above crosses, along with BSE issues across Europe (what a surprise, they had it all along!!!) keeping EU beef consumption in the doldrums, lamb will be in short supply and prices will rise. I know that prices in Eire and the Netherlands are almost double those that we receive presently ( I have been quoted 150p/kg for an R3L lamb for this week - and that's a good price!) so when carcass exports resume we will immediately see an improvement as the abattoirs and Supermarkets actually have some competition again.

    Ram Sales 2001.

    I originally thought that ram sales this year would be very later and that we would struggle to sell many at all. I was delighted to find a flurry of ram buyers, both regular and new customers unable to buy at auction, that were keen to purchase early in the season. As such we sold over half of our rams in July and early August. Then everything dried up! Probably caused by the uncertainty brought about by DEFRA's constant dithering and changing of minds (the official line has changed 3 times in a morning before now!!!), many farmers put off ram purchases for the year or have reduced/dispersed their flocks. The change of restrictions to County boundaries in mid-September have further reduced potential for sales, in fact I have lost several arranged sales because I have been unable to deliver, due to DEFRA's blundering, in time for tupping time on several farms. Thankfully Gloucestershire was declared a F&M "free county" on October 2nd and I have started to sell a few more rams since then. At the time of writing (Oct 7th) we would normally only have one or two rams left to sell, this year we have 35 left!

    I am only thankful that we are not based in the North of the England were severe movement restrictions/bans are still in place and that at least we are able to sell some animals. We shall only lose a few thousand pounds many breeders in Cumbria and Yorkshire have no sales at all and yet have all the costs of rearing and feeding those animals. My thoughts go out to all that are trapped in that situation.

    I must say that all breeds seem to be in the same position as regards ram sales, or lack of them, although some breed societies seem to be trying to say that they have an advantage over others. Commercial female sales appear to be at least as bad and I was quoted a price of 40-45 for my choice of the best Mule shearlings the other day. There can surely be no cheaper time to expand a sheep flock with quality stock!

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   Ultrasound scanning (June 2001).

    Despite being delayed by the Foot and Mouth crisis in UK livestock, we did at last manage to scan our 2001 lamb crop. Our seven highest eye muscle ram lambs were all sired by senior stock sire, Foulrice Lionheart (DG 5137), this is despite using several very high muscle EBV rams. Our 8th highest eye muscle ram lamb, ZVY 1001, is possibly the best ram lamb that we have ever bred, he had a scan weight of 79 kg and an eye muscle of 35.5 mm. He is a son of 1999 Royal Show Champion, Highway Mr Softie (ZDG 8014) and out of a smart Foulrice Lionheart daughter. He also has a scrapie genotype of RR and we are already excited by his prospects.

Lowerye Bert (ZVY 1001)   Lowerye Bert (ZVY 1001).

    We had three ewe lambs with eye muscles in excess of 38 mm. Two were again sired by Foulrice Lionheart and the third was by high muscle EBV reference ram, Hyde Sirocco (SU 9066) and out of a Lionheart daughter. 

    Foulrice Lionheart has once again produced the goods for us and we will continue to use him and his sons on a good many ewes. Of 70 ewe lambs registered this year, 53 are his daughters, giving us more than 120 of his daughters in the Lowerye flock this year. 

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    Just about finished lambing (Feb 8th 2001).

    We've only a few late lambs by Lowerye Aristocrat left to come and I've just given the early December lambs their first Ovivac P+ vaccination. They were weaned at 6 weeks in mid-January and are growing on well on Manor Farm Feeds Coarse mix. The best lambs in that batch are ALL either by senior stock sire, Foulrice Lionheart (DG 5137), or out of his daughters. Lionheart's high indexing son, Lowerye Lotto (ZVY 9011), has bred some exceptionally stylish ewe lambs, even though he was mostly used on ewes to be culled this year.

    The January lamb crop saw the first progeny of Lowerye Archie (ZVY 0052), a stylish, high index son of sire reference ram, Rutland Jackpot (ZFY 8064). I must say that his lambs are incredible. Without exception they are long and extremely well fleshed in the loin and gigot with strong heads. They are growing at a fantastic rate and look very promising. These lambs have certainly assured Archie of heavy use in the summer.

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      Lambing Time (Dec 2000)! 

    Lambing time is here again. We've just had our 200th lamb born alive from 112 ewes lambed in the first week of December. The mad rush finished at 10pm on Saturday night. The  ewes have masses of milk and the lambs look well, especially those by Foulrice Lionheart (DG 5137) - again used heavily. Lambs by Highway Mr Softie (ZDG 8014) also look to show early promise. We have our favourites already - watch this space!

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   NSA Wales & Border Ram Sale - Builth II (18/9/00).

    Our lead ram, Grimston Dickie (ZPH 9030), was awarded 3rd prize in the Signet Recorded Shearling Ram class and went on to make the top price of our pen of 10 shearlings.  Our pen was awarded the second prize in the pen class for 6-10 shearling rams amongst strong competition and sold to a good average price on the day's trade. 

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   Andoversford Ram Show and Sale (8/9/00).

    At the annual show and sale of rams at Andoversford Market on 8th September we were awarded 2nd prize in the Shearling Ram (any breed) class behind an excellent Texel shearling from Mr Durnford, this ram I have to say was a worthy champion and an excellent example of its breed. Our 2nd prize winning shearling was sold at the top price of the day to Mrs. Brett's non-registered Charollais flock for use as a stock sire and we achieved a total clearance with 6 rams and the highest average price of the day.

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   Worcester Sale (5/9/00).

    At the second Charollais Sheep Society sale at Worcester market on 5th September I was privileged to judge the pre-sale show classes. I selected an extremely smart ram lamb from Madders and Johnson's Blythe flock in Staffordshire as the Supreme Champion (which I later found had been 1st prize ram lamb at Burwarton Show) and a shearling from John Davies' Windmill flock as reserve. The pen classes were very ably judged (I would say that!) by Neil Fairburn who awarded the 1st prize pen of lambs to Jean Rawlings' pen of ten well grown lambs. The shearling and overall Champion pen was awarded to our own pen of 10 Lowerye shearlings. We later went on to sell 9 of them to average just over 300. Trade has to be described as 'sticky' with only just enough buyers for the number of rams presented. As at the corresponding sale last year, quality shearlings sold and the poorer sorts were not wanted at any money, lambs suffering an even more selective trade.

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   Stratford-on-Avon Racecourse Sale.

    At the annual Stratford Racecourse Sheep sale in mid-August, the Lowerye flock once again achieved the highest average ram price of all breeds for 6 shearlings sold. Torrential rain saw many breeders racing to cover their 'molly-coddled' soft sheep with tarps and umbrellas, ours were used to it and shrugged it off between the storms, this only served to emphasise the natural rearing of our stock. Our top price was 390 gns and our lowest 295 gns. All 6 sold to repeat customers along with 5 more sold that evening on the farm.

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   Premier Sale (15/7/00).

    Judged by J.Kinnaird of Kinross, the Pre-sale Championship was awarded to a Foulrice shearling ram out of a Foulrice Lionheart daughter. A Lowerye shearling ram by Lionheart stood 5th in the same strong class. The open shearling class was won by a son of Lowerye Duke exhibited by Tony and June Gregory (Cold Harbour flock). Champion ram lamb was given to Tim Prichard (Castellau flock) for a lamb that later sold for 2,500 gns. Top price of the day was 4,100 gns for a huge ram lamb from Viv Crocker (Westonvale flock), this lamb was a full brother to the Champion ram lamb from 1999, Westonvale Jubilee, now breeding well in the Foulrice flock. Jubilee's sons won third prize in the progeny class, behind 5 sons of Highway Mr Softie from the Elmwick flock and 4 sons of Castellau Campaigner (sire of Westonvale Jubilee).

    We purchased a son of Westonvale Jubilee from the Foulrice flock jointly with Charles Sercombe's Dalby flock. He is a very smart, correct ram lamb born at the end of December, showing exceptional muscling and growth rate as can be seen from his within flock EBV's below. Foulrice Anchor Man (DG 0096) is out of a former show ewe by Cairnhill Crusader that has bred the 2 highest indexing lambs in the Foulrice flock for the last two years, last year's ewe lamb was the flock's show lamb and had a within flock index of 201.

    Foulrice Anchor Man's EBV's are as follows:

DG 0096 8 wk wt. 21 wk wt. Muscle. Fat. Index.
Within DG flock +2.22 kgs +6.79 kgs +3.71 mm 0.00 mm 190

Sire ref. scheme

+2.19 kgs +4.95 kgs +1.44 mm +0.17 mm 223

      He will be used in several Sire Reference flocks to prove his genetic potential within the scheme. We expect him to be very highly rated, especially in terms of muscularity. 

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   Royal Norfolk Show - June 2000.

    Congratulations to Richard and Jane Easom (Grimston flock), their shearling ewe by Lowerye Duke (ZVY 7101) was awarded Interbreed Champion at the Royal Norfolk Show 2000. The ewe also made up one half of the winning pair in the Interbreed Pairs Championship. She was bred as a result of using Duke as a sire reference ram on a high index Grimston ewe, the resultant female displayed exceptional fleshing qualities along with Duke's usual style and presence.

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  Sire Reference Scheme Interim Report - June 2000.

    The interim report for the Charollais Sire Reference Scheme was published on June 2nd for all lambs scanned up to 18th May. The across flock evaluation this year has used different parameters in the calculation of EBV's as a result of updated research into the heritability of the main traits of growth rate, muscling and leanness. Also, the BLUP run this year has, for the first time, used data from Computer Tomography (CT)  Scanning. This is scanning of the whole body in order to assess proportions of lean meat to fat and bone and hence lean meat yield. The Lowerye flock has provided a large number of lambs over the last three years to assist in the setting up of this technology. As a result of the incorporation of so much new data, the muscle depth EBV's for most sheep in the scheme have been reduced. The new figures are a much more accurate measure of the ability of an animal to influence the lean meat yield of offspring. Some sheep have had a much reduced scheme index as a result but most of those affected were rams whose progeny did not seem to have the genetic merit that was predicted for them, ie. they sired lambs with a high scheme index but with ultrasound measurements that were high in fat and low in muscle.

    The Lowerye flock has moved up into 7th position overall with an average scheme index of 202, up 25 points on the year. The average index for the scheme as a whole has increased by 16 points to 177.

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    Moreton-in-Marsh Show (May 2000).

    On the first time of entering the commercial flock at Lower Rye Farm has won the Nancibel Gregory Trophy for the Champion Flock  of sheep in the Moreton-in-Marsh and District Annual flock competition. We were beaten into second place in the 'Best Kept Commercial Rams' class by one of our largest ram customers! 

    Incidentally, The farm also won Champion Herd in the Progressive Dairy Herd Management competition in the second year of entry and was second in the grass ley competition.

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    Ultrasound Scanning 2000.

    On 17th May we scanned our 2000 lamb crop for eye muscle and back fat depth. This data has been sent to Signet HQ in Milton Keynes, Bucks. for inclusion in the BLUP run for the Charollais Sire Reference Scheme - report due out on June 2nd.

    In line with reports from other flocks, our lamb crop scanned with slightly lower muscle depths and  higher fat depth than in recent years probably due to the incredibly wet April we have just experienced.  This variation from our norm serves to emphasise the importance of sire referencing and BLUP in removing the environmental differences between flocks and between years in order to give a true measure of genetic  merit. We have several lambs of identical breeding to last year that, due to the season, have a lower physical eye muscle measurement and several mm higher fat depth than their siblings from last year but should be of similar genetic merit.

   Foulrice Lionheart has once again sired our highest eye muscle lambs. ZVY 0087 is a ram lamb born and reared as a twin from a relatively low index daughter of Netherallan Majestic King (KS 2036). He has a measured eye muscle depth of 38.6 mm. Lionheart also sired our three highest eye muscle ewe lambs.  

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   Easter lamb Show at Andoversford Market (12/4/00).

   The annual Easter lamb Show and Sale was held at Andoversford market on 12th April. The lambs were entered into two classes, 36kg and under and over 36.5kg liveweight. A pair of tremendous carcass lambs sired by Foulrice Explorer won first prize in the heavyweight class over a pair of  Suffolk X lambs. Our pair then went on to win the overall Championship, beating the winners of the lightweight class, a pair of pedigree Suffolks. Needless to say, I was tremendously pleased not only to win the competition, but also to put black-headed lambs into their rightful place!

   On the same day our very last load of hoggets from the previous year's lamb crop were sold to the joint top price of the day.

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