Border Leicester Sheep
The Border Leicester is a sheep with long wool originally from Britain. It is reared for both wool and meat and is considered to be a good dual-purpose breed. The sheep are quite large but fairly docile. They are hornless sheep with lustrous wool. The wool is generally around 32-34 micron in diameter and 175-225mm long.
The breed was developed in Northumberland, England in the 1760s. The original stock was derived from Dishley Leicester rams. The area is near the border of Scotland, hence the name. Dishley Leicester sheep were created by crossing the Leicester sheep with Lincolnshire sheep. The Dishley Leicester was credited to Robert Bakewell (1726-1795) and these were purchased by various other farmers. The Culley brothers, George and Mathew purchased some of these sheep and crossed them with Teeswater sheep. Other farmers crossed the Dishley Leicester with Cheviots. The two breeds were known as “Redlegs” and “Bluecaps”. The “Redlegs” were the hardier breed and became more popular. These were renamed as Border Leicester. In 1871, the breed was imported into Australia. There are quite a few stud flocks around today.
Many farmers use the Border Leicester rams to mate to Merino ewes. This is to breed first-cross mothers to produce prime lambs. These crossed ewes produce good meat sheep. They are generally good milk producers, have high fertility and good foraging ability. They are well proportioned and may often produce more than one lamb.
These Border Leicester Merino ewes are subsequently mated with short wool rams in most cases. These produce lambs that have an ideal carcase shape and grow to market weight relatively rapidly. Most Australian lambs that are bred for meat are bred for in this way. The Gromark sheep, created in Australia, has 50% Borer Leicester genetics.
On reaching maturity, a Border Leicester ewe will weigh around 90 to 120kg, while a ram will weigh from 140 to around 175kg. Their wool is used for medium to heavy weight garments and is prized by spinners due to the lustre and crimp. When the wool is around 100mm in length, the sheep is usually shorn. This occurs around twice a year. The wool obtained can average 1.80kg for lambs to 3.2kg of wool for a yearling. The ewes are good mothers and high milk producers. They have a lambing percentage of 150% and the sheep are known to be quite docile. They sheep are all white in colour. They have well-sprung ribs, a well-developed chest and a strong, wide black. Their ears are usually alert and upright and fairly large. They have a black nose and dark coloured feet. The legs and head only have short white hair on them, no wool. This makes shearing easier. They are hardy sheep and are loved for their good nature.
If you are looking for a dual purpose breed, the Border Leicester is one to consider. They are also a good place to start for first cross mothers to produce high quality lamb. They are easy to manage as they are large sheep, but quite docile and calm.