Past Days: Ulster Texel is the ‘most valuable sire’ to be bought in the UK

Although the purchase price was not disclosed, the French-bred Annan Double Diamond was proven at a big sale in Lanark when his 12 ram lambs averaged £1,465. £4,500, “the highest price paid for a Texel in the British Isles”.

Some highly prized ewe lambs bred by Double Diamond in Scotland have been bought in Lanark by breeders from Northern Ireland.

Clever Ulster breeders who received the Double Diamond were David Heenan of Newcastle, Robert Mulligan of Banbridge, Robert Gamble of Bangor and Reggie Annett of Kilkeel.

Mr John Kidd and Mr Robert Mulligan of Banbridge pictured at the breed show and sale at Balmoral in August 1982 Suffolk sheep. Image: Farming Life/News Letter archive

During this week in 1978, Double Diamond was running with some purebred Texel ewes on a Co Down farm, along with other sheep bought from France.

The fish was purchased from a group of well-known Scottish breeders who had successfully used it, under the agreement that it should be returned to Scotland after being used in Northern Ireland.

David Heenan, who has just returned from Scotland, told Farming Life that it was doubtful the ram would be available for Northern Ireland after the Lanark sales, where Double Diamond’s progeny were in such high demand.

“We’re lucky we got it — it was just in time, actually,” David said.

Wilson McCracken, Rasharkin, Ballymena, Stephen Milligan, Alastair Morrison, his grandson and Thomas Cooper with their group of champion ram lambs at the Suffolk breed show and sale at Balmoral in August 1982. Photo: Farming Life/News Letter archives

Many Scottish breeders were disappointed to “miss him” and already in 1979 had expressed their intention to look for some of his progeny in Northern Ireland.

In addition to Double Diamond’s male progeny, his ewe lambs also sold at high prices in Lanark.

Mr Heenan, Ballynahinch, bought six Texel ewe lambs for the top price of £2,350 on behalf of Mr Jim Scott.

Other Texel ewe lambs were bought by David Meharg (£1200) and Robert Gamble (£800) from Bangor.

Mr William Montgomery of Newtownards with first prize ewe lamb and reserve female champion at the Suffolk sheep breed show and sale at Balmoral. Image: Farming Life/News Letter archive

Commenting on the high prices for ewe lambs, Mr Heenan noted that he could get Texel triplets for £500 each at the Highland Show and one of them made £1,500 at Lanark. Graded ewes sold for up to £1,500.

Farming Life commented: “The Texels, who claim to be the ‘Charolais’ of the sheep world, have recently gained popularity after winning a major carcass competition in England.

“The Celsivers aim to form a Northern Ireland Sheep Club in the near future.

“The pioneer of the breed in Northern Ireland is Norman Wallace of Lylehill, Templepatrick, who paid 1,200 guineas for a Texel ram at Blessington, Co Wicklow, as reported in Farming Life recently.”

Auctioneer Arthur Robinson, chairman of the Northern Ireland branch of the Suffolk Sheep Society, jokes with judge William Stewart of Bartlehill, Scotland, at the breed show and sale at Balmoral in August 1982. Photo: Farming Life/News Letter archives


Commenting on the decline in the Ulster breeding herd – the national herd has fallen by around 20 per cent in the previous three years to its current level of 262,000 cows, Mr AN Bailie, Chairman of Farming Life – Ulster Farmers Union’s cattle and sheep committee, said: -I am concerned about the supply of blacks, and with replacement heifers also declining, any change is unlikely in the near future.

“Supply from Eire will also decrease rather than increase, and because of the brucellosis eradication program in Eire, there will be a high demand for Friesian heifers in the south for a few years, which will affect the number and type of stall cattle coming forward.”

Mr Bailey said beef cows were in a worse position than other businesses due to the withdrawal of cow and calf subsidies on lowland farms.

He said: “There is already some evidence of a shift in the balance of trade towards the store manufacturer and that should help boost confidence.”

Mr Bailie said cow numbers in disadvantaged areas were fairly well maintained, but there was plenty of scope for herd expansion in those areas.

View of Suffolk sheep after judging at Balmoral August 1982 breed show and sale. Photo: Farming Life/News Letter archives

The downward trend in overall herd size has strongly emphasized the need for the industry to expand calf production in disadvantaged regions.

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