Breeding sheep numbers have plateaued in Northern Ireland over the past number of years.
A combination of poor farm gate returns and an ageing farmer population has combine to take the fizz out of the sector.
But dig beneath the topline figures and one very positive trend quickly stands out – the ongoing growth in the popularity of the Texel breed.
It goes without saying Balmoral Show is a popular venue for pedigree Texel enthusiast. However, this year’s event sets the scene for what will be a very landmark year in the development of the breed in these parts.
Well known breeder and Balmoral 2014 competitor Victor Chestnutt takes up the story.
“Texel sheep have the ability to produce high quality carcases form grazed grass. In other words they have all attributes required of what’s called a terminal breed. Butchers and meat processers are prepared to pay a premium
price for Texel breeding while farmers can benefit from their all-important attribute of converting our cheapest feed source, which is grazed grass, directly into high quality lamb.”
Victor went on to highlight the exemplary quality of the Texel sheep entered for this year’s Balmoral Show.
“The standard of competition has been exemplary over the three days. This is partly because the sheep have enjoyed excellent Spring conditions and they have come to Balmoral in full bloom,” he commented.
“What a difference twelve months can make. This time last year we were just emerging from one of the longest winters in living memory. The good news for everyone involved in livestock production is that 2014 is turning out to be one of the best grass growing years we could have asked for.
“Both ewes and lambs are thriving. As a result, farmers are benefiting from the improved growth rates lambs are achieving from grass.
“Spring lamb prices are on a par with where they were this time last year. So anything that can help sheep farmers to reduce their costs is a major bonus.
“Meat quality is also enhanced during periods when lambs are under no stress. Balmoral Show is a tremendous shop window for the local sheep industry. The facilities at Balmoral Park are excellent and the tremendous weather of the last three days has helped attract fantastic crowds.
“It all adds up to a great start for what promises to be a very special year for the Texel breed.”