Wensleydales out to impress as commercial sires
By Jeremy Hunt
FAMED for its high-lustre fleece, the Wensleydale is now looking to a wider, commercial market as a crossing sire. And at the Societys annual show and sale at Skipton, North Yorks last week it was clear that improving conformation is a priority among breeders.
Judge Graham Steventon, who runs the Princethorpe flock in Warwickshire, undertook a thorough evaluation of some good classes, particularly among the females.
He was in no doubt about his selection criteria: "A good skin on a Wensleydale is important but it must not be at the expense of whats underneath. The breed must maintain its fleece quality but the Wensleydale is striving for a new market as the sire of half-bred ewes and conformation is increasingly important."
Mr Steventon, a rare "non-Yorkshire" winner of the coveted Wensleydale championship at the Great Yorkshire Show, said his priority was to select sheep with good shape, legs and feet and to consider the fleece quality.
His supreme champion was a smart ram lamb from Yvonne Mudds 20-strong flock at Knaresborough, near Harrogate. The win was rounding off a successful season for Mrs Mudd who, after six years in the breed, was taking her first society show title after recently standing champion at the Nidderdale Show. The ram lamb made 150gns to J and W Ainsworth, Hebden Bridge, W Yorks.
Breed society secretary Frank Pedley said he was pleased that 78 of the 98 sheep forward had been sold. "Thats not too bad in these difficult times and our membership of 200 is now almost at an all-time high."
Leyburn, North Yorkshire vet Jack Watkinson – well-known as the veterinary adviser to the BBC-TV series All Creatures Great and Small – is now spending more time breeding his Wensleydales and brought out an impressive shearling ram to head its class.
The ram, by a Botany Bay sire, made the days top price of 230gns to J N and S M Prescott to join their West End flock at Longhorsley, Northumberland. Mark Elliott, maintaining the familys long tradition as top breeders, stood reserve champion with a stylish ewe lamb. (Craven Cattle Marts)