Am Bratach No. 239
People may say that crofters are a conservative bunch, not prone to experimentation, when the truth is that their small economic base often rules out expensive investments whose returns are often a step into the unknown.
This is not always the case, by any means, as a Gruids, Lairg, crofter demonstrated at the Lairg Crofters Show on August 20.
One of the photos on the right shows 13-year-old Ryan Munro of Runachloie, Gruids, with a wether lamb from his fathers 20-strong pedigree flock of Beltex sheep. The lamb, born towards the end of February this year, was rated best lamb of any breed by judge Kenny Mackenzie, manager of Dingwall Mart.
Hes actually a twin, said Murray Munro, Ryans dad, who has been breeding Beltexes for the past ten years. You get £1,000 for a good tup lamb, says Murray, who sells the best of them in Lanark. Theres a few people cross them with the Cheviot now to get a better lamb. You get another tenner a head for your store lamb with the cross, he explains.
We normally lamb them inside, in early February, and get them away in September. If you get them away quickly it cuts costs.
To encourage local crofters to get into the breed, Murray gave his first five shearlings away for nothing.
With backs as flat as a table the breed is noted for its fine conformation Murray takes the precaution of clipping early to avoid losing the animals on their backs. They dont go to the hill, but are kept inbye, on the croft.
Murray created his registered flock from a dozen imported yowe lambs, bought from Gavin Shanks, Carluke, Lanarkshire. That was really the foundation of it, he says. His nearest fellow breeder is probably John Scott of Fearn Farm, Easter Ross, who keeps thirty Beltex yowes, as well as seventy Texels, a related Continental breed.
Murray Munro does not keep any
other sheep, or keep cattle, but with his Beltex sheep taking
prizes at Perth and Dornoch as well as Lairg this year, his future
as a livestock breeder looks rosy.