SHEEP BREEDS OLD & NEW
HAMPSHIRE DOWN & BLEU DU MAINE
The Hampshire or Hampshire Down is a breed of sheep which originated around 1829 from a cross of Southdowns with the Old Hampshire breed, the Wiltshire Horn, and the Berkshire Nott, all horned, white-faced sheep — these were native to the open, untilled, hilly stretch of land known as the Hampshire Downs.
During the nineteenth century the Hampshire Down breed was founded by crossing South Down Rams with ewes from the Wiltshire Horn and Berkshire Knot breeds. The Hampshire Down was first registered, as a breed at the end of the century and primarily developed to provide terminal sires, which would produce early maturing well-muscled butchers lambs.
Hampshire Down sired lambs efficiently convert grass into meat within 12 weeks producing a quality meat which not only fulfils the demands of the butcher but also the consumer.
Throughout the years Hampshire Down Rams have contributed to the foundation bloodlines of various other breeds including Texel and Dorset Down.
The Hampshire Down in Ireland
The breed was first registered in Ireland in the mid twentieth century with one of the original flocks remaining active until 2005, the entire flock was sold as a unit and fortunately continues to flourish under a new flock name. Currently there are close to 50 pedigree flocks throughout Ireland. New breeders are always welcome and encouraged to play an active part in the promotion of the breed.
The 21st Century Hampshire Down is a hardy, adaptable and early maturing sheep, passing on to its offspring:-
§ Trouble free lambing
§ High survival rates
§ Early maturity / High liveweight gain
§ Quality muscled carcases
§ Good killing out percentage
giving the producer a quick, cost effective return
Hampshire Downs have been exported to Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, America and throughout Europe. This worldwide demand can be attributed to it's initial genetic traits which established a breed, that adapts easily to variations of food and climate.
Prof. Tanner, in his "Influence of Climate and Hereditary Character upon Sheep," (1869) stated that: "A constitution is strong when the functions of the animal system can be discharged in a healthy manner under trying variations of food and climate. A constitution is sound when the animal grows and thrives under the variations commonly found in a state of nature. A constitution becomes delicate when, through the intervention of man, and by a diminution of exposure, certain tendencies are fostered at the sacrifice of vital energies, so that the animal becomes especially subject of disease, and particularly so if restored to its original state of nature." http://www.hampshiredownireland.com/the-breed.html
BLEU DU MAINE
The Bleu du Maine is a large grassland sheep with distinctive slate blue grey colouring on its head. It is primarily being promoted as a female producer. Its traits of prolificacy, milkiness, easy lambing and improved conformation make it a highly desirable breed given the present constraints on labour, since these time saving qualities all lead to higher profitability. While not used extensively as a terminal sire the breed can produce lean carcases up to higher weights but is probably best suited to producing an excellent x bred lamb, either as an ewe replacement or finished lamb.
Head & Teeth
The Bleu du Maine's head is slate blue grey in colour. It has no horns, a very alert eye (giving a sharp appearance) and a thick skin. It has large nostrils and ears. The size of the head in comparison to the body is much smaller than that of most native British breeds, enhancing the female characteristics and giving co-related increased fertility and ease of lambing. Teeth should ideally be short, straight and sit directly on the dental pad. Deviations either forward or back are undesirable.
Feet and legs
The sheep should have fine flat bone structure with neat well-balanced feet. Cleats should not be misshapen or open. Pasterns are short, straight and upright. Well balanced legs set neither too wide nor narrow with light bone. Good balanced mobility is important. The fine flat bone structure and hard deep-hooved feet contribute to an active sheep that requires very little foot care - quite a bonus in flock management.
The body is well proportioned with good length of neck leading to a strong, wide and long back with well-sprung ribs giving plenty of volume, all contributing to make it an easy lambing breed.
Testicles & Udders
Rams must have two adequately sized testicles -equally sized. Ewes should have no hardness, lumps and abnormality in the udder
The ewes produce excellent fleeces up to 9kg in weight, of uniform quality and fibre length, very soft to handle and quite free from kemp and grey fibre. The fleece would be expected to attract a premium and is much sought after by hand spinners.
The Millennium Bleu is principally a terminal sire and is generally a cross of a registered Beltex ram on a registered Bleu ewe, although the reverse is also acceptable. The sheep have the carcase quality of the Beltex, with the stretch, lift and length of the Bleu. They retain the excellent locomotion of the Bleu along with the all outmuscling of the Beltex to produce a modern commercial sheep. The breed stays true to colour marking, the heads mainly with a tinge of blue and popularity grows year on year.
Generally white in colour with a distinctive blue tinge.
Teeth should ideally be short, straight and sit directly on the dental pad. Deviations either forward or back are undesirable.
Neck & Body
The neck should be short and thicker than the pure Bleu leading to a well-muscled shoulder and wide back. The Bleu gives the MB a longer body with well-rounded gigots, a low set tail and well fleshed hindquarters traditionally associated with the Beltex.
Legs & Feet
Legs should straight and sound, legs are usually white, again can have a blue tinge and feet should be well shaped.
Tight and dense, with a medium staple length, giving the new-born lamb more covering than the pure Bleu.
Millennium Bleu Rule Changes From 2020
At the Council meeting on 25th October, 2018 the breed protocol was widely discussed and it has been agreed that after 2020 the Society will not accept registrations of “pure” MB’s and will only permit the first cross to be registered and sold under the Societies’ banner. This will allow “pure” MB’s to be sold at the society sales up to 2021. https://www.bleudumaine.co.uk/members/how-to-join/