A sale on Saturday September 15th heralds the end of almost three
decades of pedigree sheep breeding for Richard Oates.
Richard Oates and the Lumbylaw ewes
The Lumbylaw Texel flock at Billerwell Farm, Bonchester Bridge,
near Hawick came out top on performance across all UK Texel flocks
last year and the dispersal of the adult portion of the flock marks
the end of an era for Richard Oates.
The on-farm sale is being conducted by Carlisle auctioneers Harrison
and Hetherington in conjunction with George F White, of Alnwick
where Richard and his wife Marion’s middle son Tom is a partner
and land agent and auctioneer.
The Lumbylaw flock was founded at Lumbylaw farm near Alnwick in
1976, simultaneously with Mr Oates’ pedigree Limousin herd
which grew to be the largest pedigree herd in the UK prior to the
majority of the herd being dispersed in 2000.
The couple were by then living in the Scottish Borders and four
year ago bought the 350 acre Billerwell Farm which is half arable
and runs to 1,424 ft above sea level on Rubers Law.
A firm believer in performance recording, Richard has been recording
his Texels for 25 years with the emphasis on breeding for the commercial
attributes of length, tight skin and a good carcase.
The Lumbylaw Texels are one of the oldest recorded flocks, registered
since 1976. Nationwide recorded flocks now number 150, recording
approximately 15,000 lambs per year.
From these recordings, Lumbylaw's impressive statistics included
last year - 10 of the top 22 stock sires, 15 of the top 20 ram
lambs and 12 out of the top 20 lambs judged on muscle depth (from
a total of 5,000 ram lambs). The flock’s lamb average was
in the top five per cent of the breed.
These statistics are mainly due to the fact that Richard Oates
has used the latest technology to improve quality.
“We have strived to consistently improve the performance
of the flock, using the best technology available,” said
Richard, whose interest in the use of performance figures began
while he worked for the Pig Improvement Company as a student.
Like the Limousin, he was attracted to the Texel because of its
superior carcase qualities but he recognised the importance of
further improving the breed through recording.
He was chairman of the Texel society’s performance recording
group for nine years until 2000 and he is pleased to see that an
increasing number of breeders are now recording. This year of the
70,000 lambs recorded with the society, 15,000 had performance
“We have CT scanned more lambs at Edinburgh than any other
flock and this has enabled the selection of muscle as well as growth
to produce the top UK performance flock.”
The flock is made up of 130 ewes and 90 gimmers. Bred from selected
lines including stock of Lumbylaw origin in other flocks, using
embryo transplant after the foot and mouth outbreak, the flock
is predominantly first and second crop with a few older ewes.
All the sheep are above breed average for performance, with many
in the top five percent and a number in the top one percent of
While performance has always been to the fore, there has always
been a careful selection of sires to maintain true to the Texel
breed. Stock sires used from UK flocks include Annan, Turin, Noresk,
Stonefieldhill, Baltier, Midhill, Cambwell, Grougfoot, East Middle,
Garngour, Muiresk and Alwent.
More recent introductions have been Muriesk Forever and Haremoss
Important Boy which have made important contributions to the flock.
The sharing of rams with Charles Scott, East Middle flock, and
more recently Arnold Park, Drinkstone flock, has given not only
a valuable benchmark of the true potential of stock sires in relation
to the national flock, but has enable important genetics to be
retained in the Lumbylaw flock.
The philosophy behind this line of breeding has been to produce
top quality shearling tups for sale annually at Kelso. With numbers
building up to a pen size of about 60 sheep since loss through
foot and mouth disease, the flock has retained an impressive average
for such a number.
This year’s crop of shearlings will be offered at Kelso,
the day before the sale, with all tup lambs and ewe lambs being
run on for sale next year.
In addition to the impressive performance figures, the flock also
boasts the most comprehensive data available on any UK flock for
faecal worm count. This data, collected over a 10 year period,
provides additional reassurance to purchasers seeking worm resistance.
Richard will still have gimmers and shearlings to sell next year
but continues to make plans for further environmental improvements
at Billerwell which caters for a growing number of tourists through
a bed and breakfast business and holiday cottage.
The Oates’ eldest son Bill is a specialist in computer software
for environmental applications and youngest son Joe is a teacher
at Longridge School, near Berwick.
The sale is at Billerwell Farm, Bonchester Bridge, Hawick on Saturday
September 15 at 10.30a.m. For further details contact Tom Oates at
George F White on 01665 603231.
Early Maturing Hampshire Downs Maximise Returns
Lleyn Sheep Society Introduce New Registration Tag
Suffolk Sheep Society's Search to Cut Flock Labour Costs