NEMSA – the North of England Mule Sheep Association – will again be promoting the breed with a high profile presence at many local, regional and national shows and events across the country in 2019.

One with especial interest is the North Devon highlight,NSA Sheep South West, on Tuesday, June 18, which is being hosted by NSA national chairman and long-standing Mule sheep aficionado, Bryan Griffiths, and his wife Liz, at Southcott Farm, Burrington, near Umberleigh.

The well-known couple have farmed at Southcott for 35 years and their love affair with the all-purpose North of England Mule stretches back over a quarter of a century.

“We began buying in Kendal and have made good friends. We tend to buy from a select few vendors whose lambs do well with us – not necessarily show lambs, but big enough to tup. The sale also coincides with our wedding anniversary, so it’s an added opportunity for a bit of time away. The ‘crack’ of the show and sale makes it an important part of the social side of sheep farming,” said Mr Griffiths.

Southcott runs to 320 acres, all grass, ideal breeding ground for the versatile North of England Mule. This year, 420 Mules for late March lambing have scanned at 212%, while 100 Kendal-bought ewe lambs are 80% in-lamb, as are 80 home-bred Suffolk-x-Mule ewe lambs, both again due late March. In addition, 320 home-bred Suffolk-x-Mule ewes,which began lambing mid-February, scanned 185% in-lamb.

Mr Griffiths explained: “We use both Charollais/Texel composite ramsfor prime lamb production – all sold dead weight, with 150 strong boned, big bodied Mules also put to the Suffolk to produce replacements for our early lambing flock.

“The Mules’ mothering ability and prolificacy remain second to none. The key to a good year is a good crop of lambs and the North of England Mule delivers.

“The challenge for Mule breeders now is bio-security. The role of NEMSA is to continue to develop ways of assuring purchasers of the provenance and health status of the sheep,” he commented.NSA national chairman Bryan Griffiths, and his wife Liz, are pictured with some of their North of England Mules at Southcott, venue for this year’s NSA Sheep South West.

Mr Griffiths, who also farms some 50 finishing steers, joined the NSA around 25 years ago and has served, in succession, as both regional and English committee chair. and now national chair. “Our main aims remain to represent the primary producer, as well as keeping regulations both practical and beneficial,” he said

“I hope visitors to NSA Sheep South Westwill enjoy an informative day out on a typical family-run livestock farm of a type that I believe remains at the heart of sheep production.”

NEMSA’s national chairman, North Yorkshire farmer Kevin Wilson, concurred: He said: ““We are really looking forward to it. Bryan and Liz are dyed-in-the-wool Mule keepers and have supported us for many, many years. We, in turn, are looking forward to supporting them on their big day.

“Showpiece events such as NSA Sheep South West work wonders in helping to promote the North of England Mule and attract future buyers and breedersIt’s all set to be a highly interesting, informative and entertaining occasion and we look forward to welcoming all-comers to our new-look NEMSA show stand, as well as renewing links with the event’s major sponsor, Shearwell Data, who are also one of our own main long-term sponsors.”

This year, NEMSA will also have a presence at the following shows: Royal Highland, June 20-23, Ingliston, Edinburgh; Royal Cornwall, June6-8, Wadebridge; Royal Welsh. July 22-25, Builth Wells, for the first time; Great Yorkshire, July 9-11, Harrogate, and Thame, August 1&2, Bicester.