Farmer Focus: Victor Chestnutt on Texel sheep

Victor Chestnutt farms 200ha (500 acres) at Bushmills on the north coast of Northern Ireland. The farm carries 110 suckler cows, including pedigree herds of Charolais, Limousin, Aberdeen Angus and Belgian Blue cattle and a pedigree flock of 250 Texel ewes

I write this having officially retired from the board of directors of the Texel Sheep Society. Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself! Some 15 years have passed since I joined and I am proud to have been part of the success story of the Texel breed during that time. I am also glad that as a board we are not resting on our laurels, with the latest decision being taken to help fund research into the taste quality of our final product.

I know at the minute it seems to be the in thing to give pedigree societies a bashing, however I don’t see many positive ideas coming from those with that aim. Yes, over-feeding rams is an issue, but while the commercial man pays more for a well grown fit animal, this is what the pedigree breeder will provide. I do not believe this has as much detrimental effect on our breed as some would like to make out, this may be because of the short time from when a ram lamb is born in February/March until it is sold in Aug/Sept.

The figure of 120 ewes to the ram has been bandied about as a way of cost saving to the commercial flock owner. While I have no doubt that many rams would be capable of this number, the extra price of more ram power would be easily justified as insurance against a higher percentage of barren ewes or an extended lambing period.

EBVs in sheep breeding definitely do work, however while all we record for is visually assessed traits the best of stockmen can quite easily match these advances in breeding. As I’ve said before, I feel figures would be much more use recording traits we cannot visually assess.

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