Steadman Dodd, West View Farm, Temple Sowerby, Cumbria
We like Beltex for the quality of the finished lamb and for the get up and go of new born lambs !
Many will at some point driven past West View Farm in Temple Sowerby, maybe even held Steadman up for a while without even realising it, as he tried to get from one side of the road to another, probably muttering at the constant rush of vehicles thundering past his doorstep on the busy A66 near Penrith. Things have changed in the last 10 years however, with the building of a new by-pass, which has rendered the journey across the road to more like a walk in the park. It is so quiet now to what it used to be, you can imagine tumbleweed blowing down the road!
Steadman came to West View in 1962, and now farming in partnership with his wife Judy, the farm runs to around 400acres, some owned and some rented, including some land taken from the National Trust, at the historic Acorn Bank, right in the heart of the fertile Eden Valley. Up until 2001 the farm was a beef, dairy and sheep, with the noted Redrock herd of Limousins established in 1979, unit, but a change of approach after the FMD saw them concentrate as a beef and sheep unit, rebuilding the Redrock herd from one bull which was away from the time, Redrock Ohboy. They grow a lot of their own crop, with some 70 acres of barley grown a year, which is followed by 20 acres of stubble turnips as well as Swedes and fodder beet too, to try and keep bought in feed to a minimum. Around 15-20 acres of grass is reseeded a year too, to keep the leys productive and fresh. !
Central to the sheep flock, which runs to around 830 lambing ewes, is the Beltex, which first came to West View in the late 1990’s and put onto North of England Mules, and when they came to restocking, getting the right Beltex tup was a priority concern. Now they run a flock of mainly Beltex X Texel ewes, retaining their best 120 gimmer hoggs to continue breeding from. “We liked the Beltex not only for the quality of the finished lamb, but also for the get up and go of the new born lambs. We have tried other breeds, but the consistency we get with the breed is untouchable” Steadman reckons. Indeed, it is hard to argue with this case when you see the quality of his sheep and hear the reputation of the finished lambs, which are all sold through Kirkby Stephen auction mart, where they have built up somewhat of a cult following for their lambs, with 90% of the lambs selling to Vivers, and the others keenly fought over by local butchers. !
Lambing starts at the beginning of March and the first lambs went last year on the 4th June, weighing in at 40kg selling for £123, and this last season the averaged £97 across the board, which stacks up well in light of the price of lambs last year. “We find the lambs thrive well from the off. Quite a few finish straight off the ewe and grass early in the season, but after weaning we like to bring batches of around 50 in and put them on cake for 3 weeks just to really finish them off” he says. He feels this is an important part of finishing the lamb, as they are producing such a premium product it pays to pay attention to details like this. The lambs kill out at over 50% on this system, which is one reason why the butchers like the lambs so much, with plenty of meat and little wastage. Aiming for the top end of the lamb market, the Beltex really fits the system time and time again, not just for the farmer, but for the butcher too, which is a consideration to take into note too. !
Whilst the Beltex has become a bigger type of sheep over the years, Steadman feels that it doesn’t want to get much bigger, as it could be in danger of losing its true strength of muscle and carcase confirmation. “They have improved massively on their legs and mobility over the past few years, which is very important” he notes. When looking for a tup he looks for a nice clean long one, witch good full hindquarters, with good shoulders and topline. This is what fits his system, and with the results they are getting it is hard to argue against the case, winning the hotly contested Kirkby Stephen Christmas show the last 4 years, taking Champion and Res the last 2 years. Just shows that even in the heart of sheep country, it is Beltex which rises to the top when quality really counts.