FAITH IN A BREED
By Robert Currie, Tayburn, Fenwick
A holiday to a livestock farmer on a family farm is something which one snatches between lambing, clipping, dipping, lamb sales and tup sales. A break which is not booked up well in advance only when one sees a few free days on the horizon we up and go. What has all this to do with the Scotch Mule Association? When one of those up and go situations presented itself in July ’86, my wife and I headed down the M6 to Stratford-upon-Avon for a first visit to the Royal Show. In the glorious sunshine we spent three days watching sheep and cattle judging and as I talked to shepherds and sheep farmers it became obvious that the Scotch Mule was a breed they knew little about. Either productively or numerically, and because of the fact that all Scottish markets with the exception of one advertise them as Greyface they assumed that the breeding was Blackface x Border Leicester rather than Blackface x Bluefaced Leicester.
On returning home with all these thoughts turning over in my mind and with a lot of encouragement from Derek Hall, M.L.C. Sheep Specialist, I invited a group of farmers to an informal meeting to explore the possibility of forming an association. After a lengthy discussion it was agreed to go back to our own areas, gather the opinions of fellow breeders and to find out the kind of support auctioneers would be willing to give.
At a second meeting of the original 8, on the 30th October, the comments coming back from the different areas were all of a favourable nature so much so that it was proposed by the then chairman of the Blackface Sheep Breeders Association, Keith Brooke and seconded by Iain Thomson, a council member of the same association, that a Scotch Mule Association be formed. Everyone present put £10 on the table to start off the new association.
Scotland was divided into regions, i.e., Dumfries and Galloway, Lothians and Borders, Strathclyde, and Central and North. Auctioneers in these areas kindly consented to send out invitations to consignors of mule ewe lambs and gimmers to attend meetings to be held in each of these areas. The attendance was very gratifying at all the meetings and a variety of opinions were expressed on the aims, finance, identification, health and the definition of Scotch Mule. Three members from each area were elected to form a council.
The first meeting of the council was held on 19th January to draw up the constitution, elect office-bearers and to decide on future plans. The name was to be Scotch Mule Association. The definition a Blackface type ewe crossed with a Bluefaced Leicester Tup. The aims to promote the breed in parts of Great Britain where we feel there is a need. The intention is to take stand space at major sheep events and shows. A quote on our local feed firm calender states “Only a mint can make money without advertising” – how true!
The question has been asked “Don’t you think you’re too late in starting?”, only time will tell but better late than never! I know we have in the Scotch Mule the conformation and hardiness of the Blackface married to the prolificacy and the milking ability of the Blueface Leicester. Combined with the mothering instinct of both we have a female, which given the correct management, will not only produce 200% lambing but is capable of nursing them whether it be for early market or finishing at grass.
Over these last five years we have seen a tremendous increase in the numbers of Scotch Mules coming on to the market. 100,000 estimated sold in 1986. Not only has the number increased but the quality has improved beyond all expectations to make one feel it worthwhile attracting buyers from the south to all our centres. Too often in the past we have taken our sheep to market and hoped that the buyers would be there. Now we will be helping ourselves by promotion.
All this cannot be done without the support of all the breeders so with this in mind the council has decided to raise funds by a £10 annual membership coupled with a levy of 15p on every ewe lamb and gimmer sold through the market. We very much appreciate the offer from the auctioneers to collect this levy from all those who become members of the association. It is hoped that some form of identification of members will appear on the sale catalogue and that vendors will provide a record of veterinary history, i.e., vaccinations and dosing.
At the election of office bearers I was elected Chairman and David Cruickshank, Bluefaced Leicester Council member, as Vice-Chairman. My daughter Katherine is Secretary / Treasurer, Derek Hall, M.L.C. Sheep Specialist was co-opted on to the council to attend to publicity.
The foundation has been laid and the strength of the Association will come from those who have faith in the product we are promoting.