Balmoral show one of the first events marking fifty years of Texels, ‘best sheep in UK’

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Proud Dromara man Jeff Aiken was yesterday trumpeting the 50th anniversary of what he believes is the top sheep breed in the UK.

​The Balmoral Show is one of the first events to kick off celebrations by the The British Texel Sheep Society, which was founded in 1974.

The current chairman drank in the atmosphere of the show yesterday with his family.

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Born into a sheep farming family in Dromara, Jeff then moved to England to work as a sheep stockman.

Dromara native Jeff Aiken is chairman of the The British Texel Sheep Society, which was founded in 1974Dromara native Jeff Aiken is chairman of the The British Texel Sheep Society, which was founded in 1974
Dromara native Jeff Aiken is chairman of the The British Texel Sheep Society, which was founded in 1974

Parents Jim and Cynthia Aiken are well known within the agricultural show and sale circuit, with Cynthia playing a role as a Ring Gate Stewart in the sheep section at this year’s event.

Coming to the Balmoral Show is a family affair for the Aikens.

“My wife and kids have their own flock,” Jeff said.

“They are big into showing their sheep in a serious way.

“It is all about the young ones, showing the sheep and meeting new people.

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“It’s also a good way to get out to the show and pick up new ideas along the way."

The chairman feels upbeat about the future of the breed over the next 50 years.

“Currently the Texel breed is the number one sheep in the United Kingdom by quite a margin,” he said.

His confidence is due to the breed's contribution to the lamb industry, ensuring consumers will have a table product they are happy with.

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“As long as we continue to look after the commercial side, breeding sheep that can produce very good, fast growing quality lambs for the butcher shop, then the future is always going to be bright for the Texels.”

Jeff flew back to Northern Ireland for the UK's first royal agricultural show this year.

“It is is a great way to start the celebrations for our 50th anniversary ‘back home’.

“It gets everybody out, all the breeders and their families."

The anniversary is “a great way to start the show season".

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The Dromara native was impressed with the display of Texel sheep on show in the rings.

“After the spring season that we have had, it is an absolute credit to those who turned the sheep out.

“The sheep have appeared well grown and well fleshed."

The Texel breed has developed the sheep meat industry in a “massive way” he said.

“The first imports came into Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, to focus on the commercial lamb.

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“In the latter years the Texel hasn’t just been used to produce the butcher's lamb, but it is also producing females and the commercial lamb as well."

The female ewes can then be kept on within flocks for further breeding.

However there is now an increased focus on how attractive the breed is to look at.

“The main reason the breed was brought in was for its carcass, not worrying so much about characteristics. But over the years that side has changed.”

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Jeff feels it is important to not lose track of the carcass of the sheep, but when breeding animals for the show ring it is also important to find sheep with slightly more character.

“This would be seen in their heads and ears,” he addeds.

One of the rules of the society is that the sheep must not be clipped or have its wool trimmed.

Jeff thinks this is very helpful in easing children into showing careers.

“They know they don’t have to go into great detail in preparing the sheep.”

He believes it is an encouragement for the children who want to show their animals.

“If you wash the legs, wash the sheep and get it coloured with dye, then your sheep is ready for the show ring.”

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