A passion for Suffolk sheep and the social enjoyment pedigree
sheep breeding brings has paid off for mother and daughter
Glynis and Jane Soulsby after their flock was judged the top
in the whole of the north of England.
|Glenis and Jane
Soulsby and their award winning Suffolk flock
The Williamsgill Suffolk prefix has existed since
1990 when the flock was first established at Williamsgill,
Temple Sowerby, near Penrith.
The original flock was beginning to see the fruits of a decade
of selective breeding when it was taken in the government’s
depopulation cull during 2001’s foot and mouth epidemic.
Jane, aged 24, has a passion for sheep which are involved
in her work as a technical sales consultant specialising in
animal breeding and genetics with national company Inovis
based in Edinburgh.
And it was Jane, an honours graduate in animal science from
Newcastle University, who persuaded her mum to re-start the
flock the following year.
Now having it selected the top flock in the northern counties
branch of the Suffolk Flock Book Society annual contest against
opposition from as far afield as Lincolnshire and up to the
Scottish Border is the icing on the cake for the pair.
Said Jane: “I gave mum an ultimatum – we have
to get some more sheep or you have to find something else
to do as she was getting boring!”
Glynis admits: “Through breeding and showing the sheep
we had met such a lot of people up and down the country and
it had become part of our social calendar.”
Originally the flock was set up through interest from the
Soulsby’s son, Thomas, who when he left school took
on the job of milking the cows. Thomas and Jane’s elder
brother, Peter, also works on the family farm.
The flock was re-established in June 2002 with 24 gimmer
shearlings with top bloodlines from Robbie Wilson’s
Strathisla flock in Aberdeenshire, although Glynis had planned
to re-stock with around half that number.
That year the Strathisla flock went on to win the national
Suffolk flock competition and achieved high averages at the
It was Jane who suggested they should enter the flock competition
last year when they were chosen as reserve top flock and their
tup Williamsgill Wkd was judged the best stock ram. He made
the flock’s top price to date of 1,000gns
This year judge Helen Goldie who runs the Harpercroft flock
at Dundonald, Kilmarnock, placed Williamsgill top of the flocks
from around a dozen entries when she visited in mid-October.
“We knew our female gimmers were looking really well
and through our breeding programme principally using AI we
have bred a more uniform flock,” said Jane.
This year’s females by AI sire Deveronside The Messiah
and stock ram Strathisla Red Bull, bought at the 2005 Edinburgh
sale, also earned the flock the award for best ewe lambs.
Glynis said: “With the type of Suffolk we have tried
to breed we have kept the carcase characteristics without
breeding for extra bone and head size which also helps with
lambing ease. We have also kept the breed’s colours
and good, silky skins on the ewes which is what the commercial
“It is the commercial breeder we are aiming at – they
put the money in our pockets – but we would always want
to breed something special.
“We have stuck with the Suffolk while some other terminal
sires have become popular but I think there is increasing
interest again in the breed which achieves a faster liveweight
gain – something which proved an advantage during this
summer’s lack of rain and poor grass growing season.”
While Jane’s job takes her all over the country and
has meant her travelling as far as New Zealand, she always
tries to be at shows and sales with her mum to help promote
the investment in time and money they have made in the new
She has also used her expertise when the ewes are AId in
early August for lambing at the beginning of the following
January when she also tries to be at home.
The whole flock is served by AI and the stock ram sweeps
up any which have not held to service.
Glynis said: “It’s expensive but it does help
batch the sheep both for lambing time and for feeding and
marketing. It also means I have a break from getting up through
the night to check on the ewes!
“Up to 30 which have held to the AI will lamb over
six days then there is a gap before the next cycle of 17 days
which allows me to re-charge my batteries.
“Taylor looks at the sheep before bed at midnight and
I get up to see to them t around 2.30am. I only bother Taylor
if I have a difficult lambing but we get very few. Handling
an in-lamb ewe - which can weigh 100kg or more - is a skill
in itself. Like everyone who breeds pedigree livestock, we
give it 110 per cent.”
The Soulsbys also place great faith in the partners at Penrith’s
Rowcliffe House Partnership.
In-lamb ewes are only fed a high energy bucket by Harbro
plus a small amount of hard feed closer to lambing time. Afterwards
they are fed Taylor’s secret home mix which contains
barley grown at Williamsgill as well as oats.
This also introduces the lambs to some hard feed before they
get creep around three weeks after birth.
Most of the females are now home-bred with three of the original
ewes remaining. All progeny are sold for breeding with fewer
females kept as replacements next year as the flock is now
at its optimum size. They are sold through sales at Shrewsbury,
Skipton and Carlisle.
Rams are generally sold at lambs although this year three have
been retained to be sold next year. They are by the flock’s
former stock ram Williamsgill Rio Grande by Fordafourie Rio,
which the Soulsbys have retained semen from.
© Copyright 2006 Jennifer
MacKenzie All Rights
Williamsgill Pedigree Suffolk Flock
XL Vets striving for best practice
Upland Salers Benefit from Diet Change at Poldean