Last week I took a short trip over to Great Snoring to meet 22 yr old, Meg Atkins and her flock of Blue Texels. I have never come across this breed of sheep so I was really looking forward to learning more about them and why Meg had chose them to begin with.
How long have you been interested in sheep and how did you get interested in them?
Cattle have always been my passion, but have always had a small interest in sheep which escalated when I first bought my Blue Texels in 2016. I was selling stores in Newark market when there was a pedigree sheep sale the same day, some smart blue ewe lambs caught my eye, I ended up buying my first 3 foundation females for my flock.
Why did you choose Blue Texels?
I have always liked them as a breed because they are small and shapey, so are easy for me to manage and handle them on my own. As well as there sassy attitudes they are a great terminal breed, that grow and grade well.
How many blue texels do you have?
4 ewes; 3 foundation ewes,1 purchased for different bloodlines ,5 shearling ewes; 4 homebred, one purchased (champion ewe lamb last year) , 2 rams and 6 lambs.
Where does the Blue Texel originate from?
The Blue Texel originates from a very exposed texel island and holland.
What makes a good Blue Texel?
A good blue texel has a dark head with a distinctive white halter mark, they are medium sized well muscled sheep. The ideal colour is a dark bluey colour with grey markings.
What makes them good for today’s market?
Blue texels are good for today's market because they are fast growing, and have a good carcase to finish, there progeny are easily lambed and light boned.
What plans do you have for your flock in the near future?
This year I only had 2 pedigree ewe lambs born and they will be retained as breeding females in the flock. I want to build my flock up to 20 head, and focus on breeding quality stock for pedigree sales. I also have two MV accredited ewe lambs in the flock which I fostered onto a ewe, these will be used as embryo recips in the coming years, introducing more advanced bloodlines into the flock.
Meg with one of her fostered ewe lambs which she plans to use as embryo recips.
Do you see your flock expanding?
My future flock plans are to expand to no more than 30 head, and concentrate on breeding quality females to sell in society sales. Any ram lambs are going to be castrated and I am going to market the meat to local pubs. I want to focus purely on breeding females for the time being.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in getting sheep?
My advice for anyone going in to sheep is to research the breed suited for grazing and management system in place. Also think of the end target market, and what you are aiming for to breed and sell.
I had a great time meeting Meg and her sheep, having not come across them before I was quite taken with them. Having mostly drawn from lighter coloured sheep, it was great to find some a little darker and with so much character. The Blue Texels are extremely distinctive looking, especially the tups, they all have dark blue/black faces with white speckled markings and piercing eyes. The tups are almost quite peculiar looking with their extreme foreheads and goggly eyes, they made me laugh initially.
Megs two tups, play fighting.
One of Megs tups, they have very distinctive features!
One of the Blue Texel ewes, still distinctive with a lot of character but with more feminity.
My pencil drawing of a Blue Texel ewe.
My hand stamped print of a Blue Texel, creating shapes and stamps from my original pencil drawing. I really enjoyed creating this print, as it is quite different from any of the other breeds I have drawn previously. This is mainly because of their colour, they are so much darker with sometimes can make it a bit more difficult to show the characteristics of a particular breed. However I think that the contrast between the black and white within the Blue Texel face means you can still distinguish the breed characteristics within my print.
I would like to say a BIG thank you to Meg for taking the time to introduce me to her flock and answer my many questions. I wish her all the luck in the future as she has so many great ideas of how she would like to expand her stock, both her sheep and cattle!
I am Izzi, farmer’s daughter and textile designer at IzziRainey. If I am not designing or sewing you will find me out in the farmyard with my cattle. I am constantly seeking inspiration for my prints, not that I have to look very far. Growing up on the farm, I have always been influenced by my surroundings and this combined with my passion for farming is what inspires my designs. I love spending time on the farm but I also enjoy learning about other people’s animals, passions and stories, which are also influential to my design process. I hope you enjoy reading ‘Over the Farm Gate’