Lucky ticket opens up a new Roussin opportunity for Cumbrian upland farmer

Ease of lambing, lamb vigour and easy finishing are traits valued by Phillip Elliott, who has honed his skills at breeding from hogs profitably. When Phillip bought a charity raffle ticket at the Roussin Sheep Society stand at NSA North, he never expected to win the pedigree ram ‘McCornick Jackpot’ (kindly donated by Martin McCornick) let alone for the breed to possess all of these traits. Since winning ‘Jackpot’, Phillip has been thrilled at the performance of his lambs. What’s more, ‘Jackpot’ raised £500 for Marie Curie and Cancer Research. 

Phillip and Denise Elliott farm a 350 acre upland beef and sheep farm in Mungrisdale, Cumbria. They have around 1000 Texel X sheep and 100 cattle. 150 NE Mule lambs are bought annually and served with Texel with the female progeny being retained and the mule shearlings sold on. The Texel X ewe lambs are served with Roussin tups and are fed a forage-only diet to optimise lamb birth weights.

“We need a lamb that is the right shape for lambing so it is born easily and willing to get up and seek milk” explains Phillip, “the Texel X hoggs are not always the quickest at mothering but the Roussin-sired lambs literally chase them around the pen until they latch onto a teat – it really helps to develop that bond and saves the need to intervene”.

Phillip has had much success with rearing lambs from hoggs and it allows him to make a quicker return on investment. “The secret to breeding from hoggs is to manage their nutrition”, explains Phillip, “I do not supply supplementary feed pre lambing and just ensure they obtain good daily dry matter intakes from grass. Once they have lambed, they are moved to our most productive paddocks and supplemented with an 18% protein nut to ensure they continue to grow whilst rearing their lambs”. Phillip also monitors worm burden using Faecal Egg Counts to ensure optimal lamb performance.

The oldest ewes are sponged so they lamb at the end of January with lambs being sold for the early trade and ewes sold as culls. Prices this year have averaged around £165 for lambs and £139 for the best ewes. The bulk of the flock are lambed in March/April and lambs sold later in the year to both live- and dead-weight markets, supplying the export trade. E and U grades make up the bulk of the kill sheets with a 50-53% kill out percentage. Ewe lambs from the milkiest mothers are ear notched and retained. “We have retained some Roussin Xs to see how they perform as we would like to ensure we retain milk and maternal characteristics”, Phillip explains, “for added hybrid vigour, we tupped them with Beltex tups as ewe lambs and we are impressed with the results (pictured below). They have lots of milk and are excellent mothers”. So far Phillip has been impressed with the maternal nature of the Roussin and plans to use the breed to inject maternal characteristics into the more terminal-bred sheep whilst enjoying the benefits of not having to reduce hist expectations for grades and kill out percentage.

Roussin sheep has a new online flockbook

The Roussin Society has set an agreement with Signet and AHDB to create a transparent flockbook for the entire breed. All sheep will be entered into the genetic evaluation, generating data on fecundity and lambing ease to help drive these areas forward. It helps breeders to monitor ‘close breeding’ and ensure rare lines can be preserved to optimise the need to import genetics. It also means that any prospective buyers can search for sheep on the database and create breeding lists so they know which animals will compliment their flock. The breed has a network of performance recorded flocks and it is hoped that the inclusion of EBVs for al breeders on ‘Roussin specific’ traits will increase uptake in weight and muscle recording. All imported bloodlines are subject to progeny testing in France. We can therefore be sure that the breed development both sides of the channel is data-driven. To look up breeders or sheep, please visit the Signet site.

Roussin raffle raises £455 for Cancer charities! So who won?

In support of Marie Curie Cancer Care and Cancer Research UK, the society conducted a Summer raffle, offering a 2019 ram lamb bred and donated by Martin McCornick, the society chairman and breeder of the record price ram lamb that sold in 2015 for 1800 gns! All income from sales of tickets will be donated to our chosen Cancer charities. In a difficult year for various members, the society decided to support these charities with a commitment to run a generous prize giveaway. The draw took place on 17th August and the ram will be presented at the Society Sale in Carlisle on 28th September. No cash equivalent is offered.

The winner of the ram was P. Elliot from Cumbria. Congratulations to him and we look forward to presenting the ram to him at our Premier Sale on 28th September at Carlisle.

James Gray from Lincolnshire was runner up and won a bottle of Domaine Lamothe bubbly, donated by Steve West. 

If you would like to help us to beat our £455 figure next year, please get in touch to purchase your tickets early in the new year.

Roussin hoggs turn heads at NSA Welsh Sheep May 2019

Derek Steen’s Roussin hoggs won the continental hogg competition at NSA Welsh Sheep this May. Ann Owen’s pair of hoggs also impressed the judges, coming fourth overall. The stand remained busy throughout with many farmers impressed with the display of Lleyn ewes with Roussin lambs at foot – a display that reflects the society’s strong commercial aspirations for our breed. We look forward to NSA North on 5th June, where we will have a similar display. For pictures see here.

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