Jennifer MacKenzie catches up with the Buckles, who have added major show victories to their success at our awards.

A SPECIALISED sheep enterprise for Cumbrian upland farming family the Buckles continues to breed success.

Kevin Buckle and sons Jack, 22, and Tom, 19, who farm at Buckles Farm, Barras, Kirkby Stephen, won The Northern Farmer Sheep Farmer of the Year Award earlier this year and since then they have notched up big wins in the show ring and broken sheep sale records.

The Buckles run 800 acres of hill land which includes neighbouring Broxty Farm which was bought seven years ago. Half the ground is improved and there are also common rights on East Stainmore Common.

The Buckles Beltex flock established in 2001 now runs to 120 pedigree ewes and Jack and Tom have their own Broxty flock of 25 ewes.

Because of the terrain, the Buckles still run a flock of 700 Swaledale ewes on the Common, with half being bred pure and the remainder going to the Bluefaced Leicester for Mule lamb production. There are also 500 Mule ewes, and 15 Texels.

The Buckles had probably what is their most successful Great Yorkshire Show to date. In what was among the strongest sheep classes at the show, they won the Beltex championship with a home bred ET shearling ram Dark Intention which will be sold at the Carlisle society premier sale in August.

Making his debut at the show, the ram is by Glantre Norris which is very old breeding and was got by semen gifted as a luckpenny by Louise Moorhouse after the Bukles bought a ram off her privately when Kevin judged at Devon show three years ago and is out of a ewe called Natashia.

They took reserve female championship with their renowned four shear ewe Adele and they won the group of three award for the sixth year, having missed exhibiting at the event last year.

Jack showed two Bluefaced Leicesters, winning the breed championship with a four crop ewe and reserve champion with a gimmer shearling which was champion and reserve interbreed sheep at Eastgate Show earlier in the season.

At the Cumberland Show a gimmer shearling out of Adele, Buckles Desire by the home-bred ram Bluey which was sold in Carlisle for 7,500gns and the Buckles retained a half share of, was the Beltex and interbreed sheep champion.

The Buckles have just set a new five figure record price for a March-born Beltex ram lamb sold privately to Andrew Wood’s Withy Trees flock near Preston. The ET ram lamb Buckles Espresso is the first out of Adele to be sold and it is by stock ram Heatheryhall Campbell bought at the Beltex sale in Lanark for 4,000gns.

The Buckles had previously held the record when Broxty Boxer broke the breed record for a ram lamb at the Beltex Society sale in Carlisle in August 2016, selling for 25,000gns, the second top price of the sale.

The Buckles first imported Beltex pre the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic, using a tup lamb on their Mule ewes. Foot and mouth re-focused their thoughts on the business and Kevin and three other breeders went back to Belgium and bought Beltex foundation stock from Philippe and Sonia Dejardin’s Gochenee flock which was established in 1985.

They set off with a dozen ewes and have built up to 125 ewes in the Buckles flock which has strong gimmer-producing lines and 25 in the Broxty flock which excels in the show ring.

They have been carrying out embryo work for 17 years with vet James Mylne, of AB Europe, Edinburgh, and two years ago they sold the first Beltex sheep to be born in New Zealand from embryos.

Embryos from the flocks have been sold to the Continent, including Estonia, and, more recently with easier import legislation, live sheep have been sold to Europe.

Two ewes have sold for 5,000gns at the Carlisle Premier sale, one of which was the Supreme Champion in 2015. Females are also sold at a collective sale started last August in Carlisle, entitled the Beltex Beauties.

Rams are sold at Carlisle, Lanark and Kelso Ram Sales as well as privately in the UK and France.

“We have tried to breed for carcase shape, loin and ‘bum’ with a nice Beltex head,” said Kevin.

With the exception of bought in tups and the odd female mainly bred in the UK, the flocks are virtually closed.

“The breed has evolved a lot in this country, particularly with commercial producers because the Beltex is such a dominant force in all the prime stock sales,” said Kevin.

The Broxty flock was started with an embryo given by Anne Moss, of Rokeby, Barnard Castle, who had purchased a record priced gimmer from Neal and Janet McQuistin, from Stranraer, and then flushed her.

The frozen embryo was number 13 and the Buckles’ sons called her Niagra Falls as their intention was if they made sufficient money from the sale of a sheep that they would go to Niagra Falls to visit their aunt.

Lambing starts at the end of February with the Beltex, followed by the Mules at the end of March then the Swaledales.

Mule ewe lambs are sold to France and some wethers are finished selling either through Kirkby Stephen or deadweight, with the reminder sold store through Kirkby Stephen and Bentham marts to make room for the ewe lambs.

Proving a complement to the sheep enterprise has been the introduction of 32,000 free range layers four years ago.