The Charollais is able to achieve carcase weights at the required
age and lamb easily on hoggs and as a result is likely to be in
increasing demand with changes to farm support payments.
This is why south Cumbrian livestock producers brothers Richard
and Charles Geldard and their parents John and Rachel have maintained
their pedigree Charollais flock since 1982.
“We have tried various continental breeds but we found the
Charollais is able to give us the weight we want at the required
age and the Charollais has come into its own through ease of lambing,
particularly when lambing hoggs.
“It’s worth a lot to be able to lamb the hoggs without
problems. A lot of our customers buy them for that reason alone
because producers don’t want to damage the hoggs.”
The rams are proving a popular crossing sire onto Mule cross Texel
and Suffolk cross Mule ewes, helping to maintain a good lambing
percentage and to maintain easy lambing.
Ram lambs entered for the NSA Builth Ram Sale
in September 2004 which averaged £405 for eight.
The Geldards imported their first three pedigree Charollais from
France in 1982 when they farmed in the Lake District near Ambleside
and they have been breeding them ever since.
“The main concept behind keeping them was to breed good
quality commercial rams for the commercial sheep farmer and if
we are able to breed rams that are good enough for pedigree breeders
that’s a bonus,” said Richard Geldard who looks after
the day to day running of Low Foulshaw Farm, near Levens, Kendal
with his brother Charles.
The family now runs 120 pedigree Charollais ewes in their Wraycastle
flock alongside around 900 Lleyn ewes.
Two hundred of the Lleyn ewes are crossed with the Charollais
to produce a good cross-bred lamb which sells well in the local
market and the remainder of the Lleyns are bred pure.
The farm’s 500 acres of good grass growing land at sea level
alongside the River Kent estuary also carries a herd of 130 Limousin
cross suckler cows put back to the Charolais bull with bulls finished
off the farm at around 12 months old and heifers at between 16
months and two years old.
Against a background of the Holstein influence on the suckler
cow, they have been experimenting with Stabiliser cattle with calves
born over the last two years through an ET project and now 60 of
the best sucklers are being put to the Stabiliser bull.
Up to 250 store cattle are bought in each year for finishing,
although this might be reduced with CAP reforms and 28,000 free
range hens are kept for egg production
The Wraycastle pedigree Charollais ewes at
The pedigree Charollais flock is AId in mid July and given one
chance afterwards to run with the ram with the aim of lambing in
The ewes are scanned in September and any which are not in lamb
are served to lamb in March. March-born ram lambs are generally
run on to be sold as shearlings while the December-born crop are
sold as lambs, weighing 90kg-plus.
Tups are sold from July through the ring at Worcester and Lanark
and at Builth Wells in September – a sale venue for more
than 20 years for the flock - as well as privately from the farm
through to the end of October to hill farmers.
Buyers keep coming back for then Wraycastle rams. This year at
Builth Wells the flock’s entry of eight ram lambs averaged £405
while 10 shearlings levelled at £720.
“We are seeing more people looking towards the Charollais
in the north of England,” said Richard Geldard. “Traditionally,
it has been a breed which has been very popular in the Midlands
and the south of the country but as we are moving towards a decoupled
agriculture, producers are looking more at the easy-care concept
of keeping sheep and easy lambing is part and parcel of that.
“We have found in the last few years that the rams have
been more sought-after in the north and we are selling more direct
from the farm.”
Richard believes that sheep will continue to have an important
part to play in the new regime of farm support payments with many
farmers looking at sheep as an alternative to other livestock enterprises
and to meet cross-compliance requirements.
The Geldards have aimed to breed their Charollais with the qualities
required by the commercial producer – conformation, hardiness
and easy lambing. Rams are bred with more head cover for lambing
As well as being good-skinned sheep, the Geldards have found the
breed also has a natural resistance to worms, which not only helps
with problems of anthelmintic resistance but keeps finished lambs
cleaner to meet current MHS regulations.
The pedigree Charollais ewes are run commercially outdoors and
housed a month before lambing during which time they are fed ewe
rolls and haylage.
The Geldards are happy with a lambing percentage of 180 for the
pedigree flock although the 2003 lambing was exceptional with two
lambs per ewe which most ewes can rear quite easily because of
They have experienced a demand for in-lamb females, selling them
in October to new flockmasters.
The Lleyns crossed with the Charollais lamb in March and the ewes
are turned out after lambing. Weaning is in July and the majority
of the lambs sold prime are drawn in August and September and sold
either through Lancaster mart as well as up to 10 lambs a week
through Plumgarths Farm Shop, run by John and Rachel Geldard as
a separate business with partners.
The cross-bred lambs average 42-44kg liveweight and kill-out at
around 50 per cent recently making in excess of £50 a head.
Lambs culled from the pedigree flock are in demand for the Easter
market. Culling is hard with only the best lambs being kept for
When selecting rams for the pedigree flock, they look for hardy,
fleshy rams. Of the current four stock rams, Harmby Moor Copello
had bred among his two crops of lambs the 2004 Worcester society
premier sale champion which sold for 3,500gns as well as the Lanark
champion which made 1,800gns.
A twin brother to the Lanark champion made 2,100gns to an Orkney
breeder and another Copello son sold in Worcester for 3,100gns
to a breeder from Northern Ireland.
Lowyer Daredevil has passed on his good conformation and fleshing
abilities to his progeny while Southam Dynamite, a stretchy ram
has produced long-bodies lambs which are very correct on their
The ram lamb Logie Durno Einstein was bought this year as a lamb
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