Selected Sheep Breeds
(The majority of Scotch Lamb is traditionally produced from cross-breeds).
Scottish Blackface Sheep
This is the most numerous sheep breed in the Scottish sheep industry due to its hardiness and adaptability. The history of the breed is lost in the midst of time but there are monastery records going back to the 12th Century that make reference to a Blackface breed of sheep.
The breed was developed to utilise to best advantage the hill and mountain grazings in Scotland and this has lead to the development of distinct types within the breed:
The Perth type which is found mainly in East Scotland and Northern Ireland; The Lanark type, which integrated with the Newton Stewart type, benefiting both milking ability and hardiness, is dominant in much of Scotland and areas of Ireland is of medium size, with shorter wool than the Perth type.
It is now over 200 years since the first Cheviots came to Caithness, in the far north of Scotland, as part of a programme to improve sheep stock in the area. As a result of their success they became the predominant breed in the north, developing into what is now known as the North Country Cheviot (NCC).
The strong maternal instinct, carcase quality, reliability, thriftiness and adaptability of the breed are widely recognised and the North Country Cheviot ewe produces a quality prime lamb whether bred pure or crossed. NCC rams can also be used successfully with other hill breeds to give added size and improved conformation.
Scotch Mule Sheep
The Scotch Mule is a produced by crossing a Blue Faced Leicester ram with a Scottish Blackface dam and it is only in recent times that this particular cross has been recognised as a distinct breed.
The hybrid vigour produced by this cross ensures that the Scotch Mule ewe is able to produce and rear a prolific crop of lambs under virtually any system including in-wintering. It is also very hardy a trait inherited from its Scottish Blackface mother and the Scotch mule makes optimum use of the food provided. She will lamb with the minimum of attention to any breed of ram and is an ideal dam for today’s sheep industry.
The first Texels were imported into Scotland from France in the 1970′s by breeders who wanted to improve the conformation and carcase quality of some of the native breeds, particularly with respect to leanness and improving areas such as the gigot.
The Scottish Texel has been bred to have a bit more length than the original imported animals to satisfy the UK meat trade. It is now the main terminal sire breed in Scotland. The Texel has also been found to produce a hardy crossbred lamb when crossed with the Scottish Blackface as well as other breeds.
The Shetland sheep is a distinctive breed unique to the Shetland Isles. Shetland Sheep belong to the Northern ‘Finntail’ or shortail family of sheep. It is thought that the breed originated from Norway and was introduced to the Islands around 500AD. The genetic make-up of the breed is largely unchanged since that time. Shetland sheep have adapted and evolved superbly to cope with the UK’s harshest climate. In contrast, the breed converts very well to improved pastures, adding prolificacy to its existing good mothering qualities, longevity and easy maintenance.
The breed has become synonymous with quality meat and fine quality wool and although white is the most prevalent colour among Shetland Sheep today, there are still over 50 different and very distinctive colour marking varieties.