Hitting the high prices at sales will be every breeder’s ambition, but for Anne Story and her daughter Rachael, selling their shearling ram BorderEsk Finders Keepers for 30,000gns at the 2021 Premier Sale at Carlisle was the stuff dreams are made of.
Producing rams suited to the commercial producer has been the aim of the game for the duo since Anne first started breeding pedigree Beltex more than two decades ago at Hobbiestown, near Longtown, where the duo’s farm supplies business, NutriGrow, is also based.
There have always been sheep at Hobbiestown but having previously ran Mule ewes, Anne spotted a Charollais cross Beltex ram one day and thought Beltex were just the job so bought one the following year from the McIlwraith’s Balig flock. Having both MV accredited and non MV sheep was proving to be a headache so Anne decided to go down the pedigree route and bought her first females mainly from the Inveresk flock, which were sadly culled during Foot and Mouth year.
Anne then restocked with females from Gavin and Alice Shanks’ Inveresk flock and a few ewe lambs from John Barclay’s Beachy flock, as well as the Belgian-bred Daisy Van’t Zaubekedal bought as a gimmer from Gavin and Alice which went on to breed the noted BorderEsk Leap Frog that sold to Jock McMillan, Clary, and made his presence felt within the breed.
“Leap Frog actually made life tricky for us trying to find a new stock tup as everything we had our eyes on went back to him and so we were scuppered for a few years. We decided to visit Belgium and bought from Noel Vanderhed, Daisy’s breeder,” said Anne.
Leap Frog’s sire, Airyolland Galliano proved to have a big influence in the flock, as did Beachy Norman, while the home-bred BorderEsk Touche bred some nice females and can be found in Finders Keepers’ pedigree.
More recently, Finders Keepers’ sire, Ardstewart Cheeky Charlie, bought for a mere 1600gns, has unsurprisingly done well and left some lovely females as well as trade-topping males.
With the BorderEsk flock now numbering 80 ewes and Rachael’s at 20, both plus recipient ewes for embryo work, the duo prefer to focus on breeding naturally and reared lambs rather than by flushing lots of ewes each year.
“We are keen to know a female can lamb and rear her lambs naturally before she’s considered for flushing, pointed out Anne, so no one female sticks out but the former show ewe, BorderEsk Angel Eyes, is proving to be a great breeder and produced the 8000gns BorderEsk Fernando ET sold to CJ Roots, Dumfries, as well as his full brother BorderEsk Figaro which sold to Zoey Rennie for her Rennie flock where he’s produced a lovely crop of lambs this year .
As such, four Angel Eyes x Al Pacino daughters have been retained and the duo are excited to see what they’ll produce in the coming years.
As for Finders Keepers, Anne never got tired of looking at him at home and although she did have high hopes for a good sale – if they’d beaten their previous best for the pen of nine they would have been quite happy, not to mention the 8000gns or 5500gns rams – but just couldn’t believe Finders Keepers price kept on rising.
The aim has always been to sell rams to the commercial man, breeding tups with good carcases that are mobile and in recent years the Storys have aimed to inject more length and stretch into their sheep.
And with a previous best price of 4000gns paid for BorderEsk Tatius that went on to breed commercial rams at Wannop’s Farms, the hard work has certainly been paying off as Anne’s pen of nine shearling rams cashing in to average £6382 at the Premier Sale in 2021.
“A tup I bred and sold at the 2020 Premier Sale went on to sire the champion lambs at Borderway’s Christmas fat stock show 2021, probably selling for more than he paid for the tup! But for us, that just epitomises what we’re trying to do – producing rams for the commercial breeder that will go on to breed top grade lambs that attract a premium,” said Rachael.
Rachael also welcomed success in her own right at the 2021 Great Yorkshire Show, winning Reserve Male and Reserve Female with two full embryo siblings which then teamed up with a third to win the Group of Three class.
It’s a busy operation at Hobbiestown as Michael also runs a small herd of pedigree Aberdeen-Angus cattle, producing bulls for sale mainly privately, and when the ladies aren’t getting sheep ready for shows or sales, their NutriGrow farm supplies business keeps them more than busy.
Despite all this, it’s within the Beltex breed that Anne and Rachael’s passion lies and although they have had some extra spending money this year, they’re not big spenders other than a couple of gimmers, including the 4000gns Belvoir View Danni bought by Rachael and the 3000gns Clary Granite, a son of Leap Frog, by Anne.
“We’re pretty happy where we’re at right now as we have some really nice ewes in the flock that are producing well too,” commented Anne, adding that they were overwhelmed by all the kind comments and support shown towards them at the sale from their fellow breeders – “it was a very humbling experience”.