Sheep beat the rest at Northumberland County Show

THE sheep section provided the winner of the Champion of Champions contest at Northumberland County Show for a third consecutive year.

Blackface Judge Robert Robson at the Northumberland County Show
Blackface Judge Robert Robson at the Northumberland County Show

THE sheep section provided the winner of the Champion of Champions contest at Northumberland County Show for a third consecutive year.

Gordon Gray’s Texel gimmer, Ettrick Lady Kate, beat the beef champion into second place after winning the supreme champion title in her own section.

The gimmer, based in Selkirk, was described as “really classy” by Champion of Champions judge Michael Aynsley.

Owner Gordon Gray said: “She’s got the x-factor; she’s got character in abundance.” Sheep secretary Jackie Raine, added: “It was an outstanding gimmer; a credit to the producer, it was really, really good.”

The warm weather over lambing helped to boost the strong entry at Monday’s event.

Mrs Raine, who runs the section with her husband Robert, said: “We had a lot of excellent entries, not so much the hill sheep, but the blackies that were here were excellent. There were no bad sheep.”

Surprisingly, no males won any of the sheep section championship classes this year.

“It is unusual. For the females to win they’ve got to be outstanding,” said Mrs Raine.

Walton Rocket, the Blue Faced Leicester tup which won the Champion of Champions for the Forsters of Lowes Fell near Hexham in 2009 and 2010, did not compete this year. But the family again won the Blue Faced Leicester section with a gimmer.

Increasing interest in Zwartble black sheep resulted in big classes for the breed this year. Often dismissed as ‘hobby sheep’, they are increasingly being used as crosses to produce fat lambs.

John Thorburn, who runs the 100-strong Holmlea Flock based at East Riggs between Annan and Gretna, won the Zwartbles reserve champion and won the ewe lamb, adult tup and ewe classes for the breed.

“People are using them to cross and are getting good results,” he said.

“They were originally from Holland where they were used for milk but they are also fast growing. If you cross them with a Beltex or a Texel, the lambs grow that much quicker.”

He started keeping the breed five years ago after he took retirement following a hip operation.

“It was something to do, so I bought some to show,” said Mr Thorburn.

The next event for the Holmlea team is the Three Counties Show in Malvern, Worcestershire in three weeks’ time. The furthest they travel is to the Royal Bath and West, where the Thorburns have won for the past two years.

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