To celebrate the start of a new century the Bleu du Maine Society decided to do it in style and produce a new breed of sheep.
The idea for the Millennium Bleu, which is a cross between a Bleu du Maine ewe and a Beltex ram, first came about in 2000 and three years on the new sheep is proving popular as both a terminal sire and a replacement ewe.
Tynedale farmer John Davison, from Lough Green, Langley, who is chairman of the Blue du Maine Society this year, said he hoped the Millennium Bleu would improve the popularity of the Bleu du Maine.
He said: "The Bleu du Maine is a big, long, framey sheep while the Beltex is the exact opposite. One or two people had put the two breeds together and had been very impressed with the results so we decided to explore the option further and promote it.
"The first Millennium Bleus were bred in 2000 but there were only a few people involved.
"Then came foot-and-mouth. But more people started breeding them in 2002 and this year we have 12 entered at our society sale at Carlisle."
Mr Davison said most of the Millennium Bleus were being sold privately but the selection at the sale on August 15 would give people an idea of the new breed's potential. He said: "The champion at our last sale was bought by Mr Carruthers from Penrith for 700 guineas and he said his only regret was that he hadn't bought the reserve champion as well.
"Another of the rams was bought by a farmer from Scotland who was running it with his Cheviot ewes and the resulting lambs have all been sold for a premium of £15 to £20 a head. And a farmer from Wales, who sells all his lambs deadweight via Woodhead, said his grades were 15 to 20pc up since using the Millennium Bleu. So farmers seem to be very happy with the new breed."
According to Mr Davison the Millennium Bleus are recognised under the National Scrapie Plan and display a high resistance to scrapie, with 75pc of the sheep tested recorded classified in the top category.
The rams make excellent terminal sires combining the meatiness of the Beltex with the size of the Bleu du Maine, while the females are also milky enough to be used as replacements.
As the new breed of sheep are a first time cross they are eligible for registration with the Bleu du Maine Society.