Julie Bury (JUB)
Laine Daff (BLG)
Robin Johnson - Chairman (AP) - (flock visit info)
Stan Kilby (AST)
Janet Richardson - Secretary (JER)
Johnny Stables - (YY)

Johnny Stables

Johnny Stables
Low Esh Farm,
Esh Village,

Tel:01913 730881

Johnny Stables is a part time lecturer at Houghall College of Agriculture based near Durham. He runs a flock of North Country Cheviot sheep.

He is building up a flock of pedigree Bleu du Maine sheep using semen stored from rams which have had an acknowledged impact on the breed since the breed was imported into England in the 1980s.

Read his October Farm Walk 2016 presentation here.

In July 2013, Houghall College was given a Charmoise ram to use on the College's 50 strong sheep flock. This consists mainly of Texel, Texel x North Country Mule and pure North Country Mule ewes.

Johnny then made the decision to broaden the tupping programme by introducing a Bleu du Maine ram (Winholme Krakatoa AP.12318) and then Hampshire Down, Suffolk and Texel rams.

This would mean that the students studying sheep husbandry, as well as being in charge of all aspects of sheep care during pregnancy, could compare ease of lambing, weigh lambs at birth, 8weeks and 21weeks so as to monitor mothering ability and growth rates between the different cross bred lambs.
There may be an opportunity for the College to use a back scanning technician from EBLEX to compare muscle and fat depth of the lambs at 22weeks.

Comparison between the five groups would start by scanning the ewes to find out the number of lambs they were carrying (done at 60 - 70days gestation). The flock is expected to lamb down mainly in February 2014.
Any empty ewes would run with the Bleu du Maine ram to lamb in April.

At 38 - 40kgs the lambs will be slaughtered and the carcases graded as a  final comparison

The results will be shown on this website in Spring 2014.

Charmoise and Bleu du Maine rams at Houghall College

Results: Summer 2014

The ewes were scanned according to their 5 groups. Of the 50 original ewes in the early lambing group, 9 were found to be empty, one had died and three were unaccounted for.

Of the remaining 37 ewes, 10 were carrying single lambs, 20 were twins and 7 were triplets.

The overall scan rate was 154%. No specific sire stood out as generating a large number of lambs.

Birth Weight averages (kg)
Suffolk  5.60.    Texel   4.75.     Hampshire Down  4.41.   Bleu du Maine  4.20.  Charmoise Hill  4.20.

The traditional terminal sire breeds (Suffolk & Texel) provided the highest birth weights. It could be argued that higher birth weights could increase lambing problems and therefore lamb mortality. The Bleu du Maine lambs gave no lambing problems at all.

The early lambing flock receive creep feed from 2 – 3 weeks old. The main crop is only grass fed through the summer.

Eight Week Weight averages (kg)

Suffolk  27.80.   Texel  21.30.   Hampshire  23.00.   Bleu du Maine  22.00.   Charmoise Hill   20.94. 

The Bleu x lambs have performed very well against the traditional sired lambs, given the Bleu du Maine’s average birth weight. 

All breeds performed well during the summer months. The intention was to have the different groups of lambs graded by the abattoir as they were ready for slaughter. However at present this service is not available.

Finished Lambs.
The Bleu x lambs have grown well and have had a high killing out percentage (KO%).

From the CT scanning results on Bleu du Maine lambs from the Greenside Flock, the KO% range was from 43.9% to 47.4%. 

The Houghall College catering department and Durham University are now sourcing their supplies of lamb from the college farm. (The catering department manager will be writing to Blue Sires to say how well the lamb sausages had turned out!)

Ewe Replacements.

The college also runs its own hill flock to compare with the lowland flock already discussed. In the past a Blue Faced Leicester ram was used but a new Bleu du Maine ram has now replaced it to breed replacement breeding ewes. The original Swaledale ewes have also been replaced in 2015 with 50 Scottish Blackface ewes. Ewe lambs from the Bleu du Maine  x Swaledale are very similar to mule lambs (Blue Faced Leicester x Swaledale) but have tighter fleeces and a wider stockier build. Some Bleu x Texel and Bleu x Swaledale ewe lambs have been retained to join the commercial flock in 2015.

What Next?
Two Millennium Blue ram lambs (Beltex x Bleu du Maine) are now being used on the college early lambing ewes and the main (late) lambing commercial flocks to lamb in 2015.

Another local abattoir has been found which will grade the different sired carcases.

The performance trial will continue with added results from the Millennium Blue x ewes.

Using the ‘lambing difficulty chart’ located on this website, the various breed performance at lambing time will be monitored.

The new venture of the Bleu x Blackface or ‘Bruises’ will also be evaluated as a commercial cross bred continental ewe (mule).

At the Great Yorkshire show 2011, his stock ram won the Champion Male class

He is also producing a crossbred ewe Bleu x Cheviot

His Peridot ewe lamb