12 April 2002

Top bargain prices for Lawns herd

By Jeremy Hunt

North-west correspondent

LANCASHIRE farmers Tom and Margaret Ashton dispersed their Lawns herd of Belgian Blue cattle to a top price of 5800gns last weekend.

They were the first breeders to import Belgian Blue cattle into the UK in 1981, which instigated a new era in British beef production.

"I started at Chelford and I wanted to finish at Chelford," commented Mr Ashton as the large crowd – including several breeders from Belgium – gathered around the Cheshire sale ring last Saturday for one of the breeds most influential dispersal fixtures.

Stock descended from the herds successful show cows, Lawns Jasmine and Lawns Debutante, were among the most sought after, but the top price came towards the end of the female section with a 5800gns call for Paradise Blue My Champion.

This October 1995-bred cow is by Lawns Ambrose, who is a son of Lou Lou De Vyle Tharoul – the bull imported by the Ashtons and widely used to promote the breed in the UK when it was introduced. She is a powerful blue-and-white cow and was suckling a heifer calf by Lawns Panache, a son of the Belgian champion sire Cristal de Somme.

The buyer was Lancs stockbreeder Alan Barnes, who is no stranger to success in the Chelford ring. He is restocking after losing his herd to foot-and-mouth last spring.

The Ashtons, who are retiring from farming, have achieved an impressive show record with their Lawns cattle, collecting titles at three Royal-titled shows.

Buyers at Chelford had to wait until the latter part of the sale to compete for young bulls. Black Belgian Blue bulls are very much in vogue for overcoming the "mottled" coat colouring of progeny by broken-coloured sires. So it was no surprise that the almost all-black bull Lawns Super Black Boy stirred up intense interest.

This May 2000-bred son of Florin Du Grand Faimes is out of Lawns Nice Jasmine and was admired for his scale and muscling. He heads for Aberdeen with Neil Barclay who, bidding on the telephone, fought off stiff opposition to secure him at 5000gns.

The second bull in the ring, the blue-and-white Lawns Sunny Jim, made 3700gns. He is a March 2000-bred son of Lutin Du Bouchelet, already the sire of notable show winning progeny in Belgium, and out of Lawns Nutmeg who is by Florin Du Grand Faimes.

Heading for Kidderminster, Worcs at 4200gns was the March 1997-bred cow Lawns Oleander sold suckling her month-old bull calf by Lawns Panache and in-calf to him again.

The black-and-white Oleander is a daughter of Lawns Dominic and out of the successful brood cow Lawns Harriet – dam of a past Royal Welsh champion. Harriet was born naturally and has since bred two calves without assistance.

A cow and calf changed hands at the same money when Skipton, North Yorks buyers Messrs Calvert staked their claim on the seven-year-old cow Lawns Mecca, offered with a heifer calf at foot by Lawns Panache.

Mecca is by Agitateur De Somme and out of Lawns Kitty, who is by the well known sire Gavroche De Maurage.

The same bidders took Lawns Rosine, a three-year-old heifer by Florin and out of the heralded Jasmine family at 3600gns.

More determined telephone bidding from Mr Barclay clinched the maiden heifer Lawns Tilly Mint – a really powerful black-and-white daughter of Panache – at 2850gns.

Lawns Topaz, a blue-and-white maiden heifer by the highly rated Belgian sire As De Trefle Du Vanova, was taken by Shrops breeder M Huffer, Ludlow at 2400gns.

Among the most fancied of the 2001-bred bull crop was Lawns Tango, another black-coated entry by Panache. He realised 2300gns to W T McMiken, Castle Douglas, Dumfries.

Averages: 16 bulls £2223; 43 cows £2058; 21 heifers £1417 and 39 cross-bred heifers £308 (Frank R Marshall and Co). &#42

Tom Ashton with some of his young Belgian Blue bulls from the Lawns herd, which sold to 5000gns for a black bull.