A switch to the Beltex as a terminal sire to use on crossbred
hoggs has improved the profitability of the sheep enterprise
on a North Yorkshire mixed farm.
|“We lamb all
our sheep outside by choice and we have no problems with
the Beltex sired lambs."
John Stapleton, in a family partnership with his
brother George and parents Kenneth and Sheila, run 450 acres
at High and Low Skibeden, on the outskirts of Skipton.
A flock of crossbred ewes has long been part of the business
which also includes a dairy herd of 150 milkers and a beef
Traditionally, Mules are bred from bought in Swaledale ewes
and now, rather than selling the Mules, they are crossed with
the Texel. Since the Beltex was introduced three years ago,
all the hoggs are crossed with the breed adding value to the
sheep side of the business.
“We breed all the commercial ewes ourselves from bought-in
Swaledales. We have gone down the route of using large terminal
sires which enhance the conformation of the females to produce
tight-skinned, large framed lambs with good loins,” said
“We wanted to lamb as late as we could because of our
workload on the farm but we also wanted ease of lambing and
to get the lambs away as early as possible.
“We have carried on that strategy with the crossbreds
but we introduced the Beltex onto the hoggs because of their
ease of lambing yet still maintaining a superior conformation
lamb. The Beltex has given us what we wanted – a smaller,
sharper type of lamb which is second to none. The cross just
The hoggs, which are among 550 ewes lambed from the end of
March, have been meeting a ready demand when sold with lambs
at foot at Skipton auction mart and this year the good prices
they were bringing meant that they were nearly all sold with
the mothers from four to six weeks old.
This also creates a flexible system which the Stapletons
can adapt depending on the market price and their stocking
In previous years more lambs have been sold prime through
Skipton and Otley markets.
Buyers of the hoggs and lambs are generally aiming to finish
the lambs to hit the Christmas and January markets and are
well pleased with their performance, says John.
“We lamb all our sheep outside by choice and we have
no problems with the Beltex sired lambs.
“We average a 150 per cent lambing but the hoggs can
easily look after two Beltex lambs and we find that unlike
some other sires, these crosses aren’t such a strain
on the hoggs. We were finding that the hoggs had not developed
to their full potential when crossed with other larger rams.
The lambs are very quick on their feet and sucking,” said
The hoggs, depending on their condition, are fed with concentrate
and hay or silage from six weeks before lambing.
“The crossbred Beltex lambs are thrifty. They grow
well because of the hybrid vigour and as a result we give
them no creep feed.
“The ewes and lambs are able to make good use of the
spring grass and the milky hoggs are able to feed their lambs
without any concentrate feeding – occasionally they
are supplemented with either hay or silage.”
John Stapleton buys UK-bred pedigree stock rams both as lambs
and shearlings from the society’s premier show and sale
at Borderway Mart, Carlisle – he will be looking for
more rams at the Carlisle sale on Friday August 11 August
with females sold the previous evening.
He has also bought from the Northern Beltex Club Sale which,
this year, is at Skipton on September 9, as well as one or
Because of the commercial market he is supplying, he is generally
looking for a larger, long, tight-skinned animal to complement
the larger hoggs it is crossing – although Mr Stapleton
admits that even the smaller Beltex rams can surprisingly
do the business with larger ewes.
“I have been paying up to 500gns for shearlings and
between 350 to 400gns for ram lambs. I reckon my hoggs cost
me £10 a head for service charges but at the end of
the day the ram is half the flock,” he said.
© Copyright 2006 Jennifer
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