24 May 2002

Touring farm opportunity

By Shelley Wright

VISITORS to Scotsheep 2002 will have the chance to tour the Peter and Murray Alexander livestock enterprises, with their focus on crossing sheep and cattle to suit the varying terrain.

Mains of Mause extends to 1620ha (4000 acres), ranging from high hill land on the slopes of Glenshee to river meadows alongside the River Ericht.

A fully integrated 4000 breeding ewe sheep enterprise involves pure Scottish Blackface sheep on the high hills. About 200 cast ewes a year are taken off the hill and brought to join the 400-head lowland Blackface flock. Of those, 300 are crossed with Bluefaced Leicesters to produce Scotch Mules, while the remaining 100 are bred pure to produce sires for the upland flock.

In addition, 400 North Country Cheviot ewes are crossed with Bluefaced Leicesters to breed Cheviot mules, with 200 ewe lambs retained each year as replacements.

"Mules are crossed with Texels and then put back to a Suffolk tup," says Peter Alexander. All lambs not retained for breeding are finished and sold deadweight.

The Alexanders cattle enterprise is based on 600 Limousins, ranging from three-quarters to purebred. All are put to a Limousin bull, with 75% of the herd calving in the spring and 25% in autumn.

Bull calves are kept entire and are finished at 12-14 months, weighing 550-560kg. Heifers not retained for breeding are also finished, normally at 530kg at 18-20 months. &#42

Peter Alexander runs several flocks to suit the farms varied grazing.

Plenty to see and lots to do

Scotsheep 2002 organisers are hoping for a good turnout, and it has a promising day of activities on offer for the event to be held next Friday (May 31) in Perthshire.

Ross Finnie, Scotlands rural development minister will open the event, which is being held at Mains of Mause, Blairgowrie, where father and son Peter and Murray Alexander run 4000 breeding sheep and 600 suckler cows.

Gates open at 8am, and the days events will include sheep dog trials, demonstrations of scanning, shearing and electronic identification systems, and a fencing competition.

In addition, there is a seminar on optimisation within the sheep sector and a question and answer session with leading lights in the Scottish sheep industry.

Organised by the National Sheep Associations Scottish Region, and sponsored by Bank of Scotland and Rumenco, Scotsheep 2002 has attracted more than 100 trade exhibitors. And 20 breed societies will also be represented.

&#8226 Numerous sheep crosses.

&#8226 Diverse landscape.