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17th August 2016

Mossfennan Technical Meeting and MSG@InnovisDSCF8367

The group membership gathered at the Welsh family's farm in Peebleshire for the annual technical meeting on August 17th. First stop (after coffee) on a beautiful day was for a convoy of 4x4s to make their way up the hill. Not only did the membership enjoy stunning views of the Tweed valley but also took in a 'fly past' of the Mossfennan ewe flock as they made the move from one block of hill to the next. They looked in fine form, given that had only waved goodbye to their lambs 10 days previously! There followed a discussion on the merit and practice of block grazing the hill, with several salient points raised.

Following an excellent lunch, Keith Ballingall of the Moredun Research Institute gave an excellent presentation on the risks that selective breeding poses to the resistance/resilience of a population to disease, explaining amongst other things the genetics behind the Red Squirrel population crisis but also giving the flockmasters present food for thought.

Attention then turned to group business and the exciting news that two group members, Ian Duncan Millar and Bobby Lennox, will be selling Blackface tups at the Innovis ram sale near Stirling on August 30th. The group's modus operandi of producing functional, recorded sheep fits in well with that of Innovis and it is hoped that this relationship can be built on to the advantage of both parties. The meeting was rounded off with a discussion on the future direction of the group. The membership left with wind in their sails following an excellent meeting!

11th March 2016

Group AGM at Glasgow Vet School

The AGM commenced with George King giving the early arrivals a tour of the Galloway building (AKA Scottish Centre for Production Animal Health and Food Safety). This comprised of a review of the current clinical cases, with an excellent general discussion on animal health and veterinary education issues.

The meeting then adjourned to the university farm at Cochno, where George King had kindly arranged for our AGM to be held in one of the seminar rooms.

Following the AGM and lunch, Anna Bruguera (farm animal intern at the vet school) gave us an interesting presentation on her analysis of the caseload through the Scottish Centre for Production Animal Health and Food Safety between 2006 and 2015. The day was rounded off by our genial host, George King, giving us a tour of Cochno farm, with a strong emphasis on the sheep enterprise. George is doing an excellent job in turning the flock around but it provided an insight into the constraints of managing a flock within an institutional/academic setting.


30th September 2015

Stock for Sale/Worm Resistance Testing

 Details of sheep for sale, including the Mossfennan tups pictured above, are now available under the relevant tab on this website. Alternatively, members' contact details can be found under the 'Producers' tab and any enquiries will be warmly welcomed.

Continuing the Maternal Sheep Group's commitment to continuous genetic improvement of their flocks, some members are to trial the use of saliva IgA sampling as a marker for roundworm resistance. This new technique offers several advantages compared with faecal egg counting, which is currently used to evaluate this trait. Roundworm infection and drench resistance are major barriers to profitable sheep production and our members' aim is to provide customers with a genetic solution to this problem.

Follow the link below for further information about the original project, funded by AHDB:



29th June 2015


Easyrams show "How to make money from sheep the NZ way"

Maternal sheep group member and founder of 'Easyrams', Robyn Hulme, will once again be hosting a series of open meetings next month to help British sheep farmers make their businesses more profitable. Speaking will be Robyn, NZ sheep farmer and consultant Murray Rohloff plus fellow Kiwi and soil research scientist Rex Dolby.

Locations are Scottish borders July 4th, Easyrams HQ in Shropshire July 9th and Wales July 11th. Attendance is highly recommended! Follow the link below for more info:


13th February 2015

MSG Member handed NSA Chairmanship


 Wharry, Samuel 1



MSG founding member Sam Wharry has been voted in as the national chairman of the National Sheep Association. He becomes the latest in a list of Maternal Sheep Group members to have held influential posts and use their knowledge to push the industry forward.

Sam farms in Carnlough, County Antrim and has a long history of breeding functional, recorded stock (particularly Blackfaces) and was involved in the Blackface Sire Reference Group before the formation of the MSG.

Sam commented, "I am delighted and honoured to be selected by my fellow board members for this role. I look forward to working with the board to continue to make NSA useful and relevant for all our members."

Congratulations to Sam from all his colleagues in the Maternal Sheep Group.



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5th October 2014

MSG autumn Meeting a great success

A large proportion of the Maternal Sheep Group membership turned out for the autumn technical meeting at SRUC's hill and mountain research centre at Auchtertyre/Kirkton, near Crianlarich on 24th September. The attendees enjoyed an interesting agenda put on by the centre staff, comprising of:

- An introduction to the centre and a summary of recent developments.

- Jo Conington and Ann McLaren talking us through the latest developments in sheep breeding and genetics.

- Precision livestock farming with Claire Morgan-Davies and Harriet Wichart, including a demonstration of an EID reader and automatic weigh crate (Pictured above).

- Grassland improvement programme at the centre

- Greenhouse gases on hill sheep farms with Tony Waterhouse.

- Michael Blanche provided an update from QMS



26th August 2014

Sale sheep now on website



The first spreadsheets containing details of tups for sale have now been posted on the website. Bobby Lennox, Shantron, Alexandria has 11 Blackface shearlings for sale, while the Welsh family, Mossfennan, Biggar have 30 Easycare tups (pictured above) on offer. As with all sheep offered by our members, these tups have been performance recorded and naturally reared.


To access these spreadsheets, hover over 'Sheep/tups for sale' in the bar above this article and click on the farm name to download the file. You will then be able to view the figures relating to individual sheep. Further contact details can be found under the 'Producers' tab above. Keep checking back, as more files will be posted over the next few weeks.


30th June 2014

Easyrams join forces with the MSG


Maternal Sheep Group treasurer Ian Duncan Millar took the opportunity to welcome Robyn and Philippa Hulme to the group in front of their eyecatching stand at Scotsheep on June 4th. The Hulmes consider their New Zealand Texels to be primarily a maternal breed and their ethos of producing functional, recorded sheep echoes that of the existing membership.


Robyn Hulme said, "It is acknowledged that genetic improvement in maternal traits brings 7x the financial gain of all other traits, so Easyrams are delighted to have been asked to join the Maternal Sheep Group."


"We are convinced that genetic improvement along with better management techniques is essential to the profitability of sheep production in the future and so are confident that our membership of the MSG will assist us in offering our clients more efficient rams in the future."

Ian Duncan Millar commented, "Easyrams are looking for the same mothering abilities and so are ready-made members of the Maternal Sheep Group and their rams are natural partners for efficient and proficient ewes."

Later that week, group member and Easycare breeder Barry Sangster gave a presentation to the Easycare Society AGM, just up the road at Abbey St Bathans, with the aim of encouraging the uptake of performance recording and use of recorded genetics within the breed.



 24th February 2014

MSG Members in the News


Maternal Sheep Group treasurer Ian Duncan Millar was honoured with NFU Scotland's Ambassador Award at the Union's recent AGM in St. Andrews. The award recognised Ian's contribution to Highland Glen lamb marketing co-operative, the Scottish Association for Sheep Health, the National Fallen Stock Company and, more recently, the Moredun Foundation. NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller told 'The Scottish Farmer', "Agriculture in Scotland needs people like Ian Duncan Millar who have the ability to pull people together in a collaborative way and use that collective strength to make things better." We are lucky to have him aboard!


Meanwhile, group chairman Campbell Tweed featured in a recent 'Farmers Weekly' article, which outlined the benefits and practicalities of performance recording his 3000 ewe flock in Co Antrim. Follow the link below for an interesting and informative read:




January 20th 2014

Maternal Sheep Group Autumn Technical Meeting

MSG members gathered for the autumn technical meeting held at Moredun, Penicuik on 17th December. Following a welcome from chairman Campbell Tweed, they enjoyed a thought-provoking day, thanks to an excellent line-up of speakers:

-Sam Boon of Signet  spoke on 'The science of genetics and the future of Signet Breeding Services'. A discussion on Signet's service provision to group members followed.


-Dave Bartley of Moredun spoke on ‘Parasitology and the Targeted Treatment of Sheep in Partnership with Genetic Selection’.

-Philip Skuce also of Moredun then addressed the group on his work about Liver Fluke, including his findings on breeding for resistance and targeted selective treatments.

-Jo Conington updated the gathering on current work at SRUC, including the integration of EID into hill sheep management and identification of new strains and traits.

-Eamon Wall gave an update from Sheep Ireland, the performance recording provider on that side of the Irish Sea.

-Michael Blanche of the Scottish Sheep Strategy then spoke on his thoughts on ‘A Way Forward in the Sheep Industry’.

If you are a progressive maternal sheep breeder who would benefit from accessing this type of information and participating in the discussions which followed then please call 01289 382 857 (or e-mail from the contacts page) to enquire about membership.




September 23rd 2013


Blackface Sale Entries



Remony Estate Partnership have entered shearlings in the Blackface Society Sales at Stirling, Lanark and Dalmally. The spreadsheet with the figures for sheep likely to be sold at each sale can be accessed under the 'Sheep/Tups for sale' tab on the home page. The tups on the 'Chasers' tab of the spreadsheet may be entered for a sale, or made available to buy off the farm.



September 21st 2013




MSG member tops sale













Performance recorded genetics carried the day at the Easycare sheep Society Sale at Thirsk Mart, with Maternal Sheep Group member Barry Sangster consigning the 450gns top lot. The grass-fed tup was credited with an index in the top 10% of the breed and a maternal EBV in the top 5%. Knocked down to James Barton, Glentham Farming, Lincolnshire, the shearling topped a very selective trade.




September 12th 2013


Members' sheep for sale








Kelso's annual ram sale tomorrow signals the start of the tup-buying season for many farmers and Blackface and Easycare breeders can source performance-recorded, grass-fed genetics with confidence via this website from members in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.

Spreadsheets with details of sheep from Wester Tullich (Blackface), Greenend and Mill Farm (Easycare) are currently available online. Simply hover the cursor over the 'sheep/tups for sale' tab on the home page, then click on the farm name to download a spreadsheet containing details of EBVs etc. Keep checking back, as more spreadsheets will be added as the season progresses.

Alternatively, via the 'Producers' tab, you can 'Find a Producer' using the map and colour-coded pins or check the 'Group Members' list for contact details.

Some members also sell by auction. Barry Sangster (Mill Farm) has entered a shearling tup in the Easycare Society Sale at Thirsk Mart September 21st. George King (Greenend) has five ewe lambs entered in a similar sale at Carlisle October 3rd. Again, further sale entries will be trailed here once the Blackface entries have been finalised.


July 18th 2013

The Welsh Family welcomed 60 visitors to their open day, held in conjunction with Easyrams. The event started by Robyn Hulme of Easyrams explaining how he had progressed from being one of Britain's leading breeders of 'traditional' Suffolks to pioneering the import of New Zealand genetics. He emphasised the importance of selection on functional traits and EBVs.

Next was a fascinating talk by Kiwi sheep consultant Murray Rohloff who explained how farmers can improve profits from their sheep enterprise by better controlling what happens within the farm gate. The main 'take home' points were:

-Days to slaughter is the biggest driver of profit in a commercial lamb enterprise (46%).

-Maintaining a highly-digestible grass sward in front of your lambs will push weight gains. The best way to achieve this is by rotational grazing, which will allow better control of grass covers and maximise utilisation of grass grown.

-For grass-based fat lamb production, it is essential to use tups which have been reared in a similar fashion. Buying tups from breeders who actively use EBVs as part of their selection process will mitigate the effects of inflation and maintain profit margins.

Finally, the assembled throng saw cell grazing in action (see 'June 2013' below for more information and pics).

Notes for Murray Rohloff's talk can be accessed by following the link below:

July 1st 2013

Full details of open day at Mossfennan, Broughton ML12 6QJ

on Thursday 18th July 2013 at 2pm

The day is in conjunction with EasyRams and is part of a series to be held during July. They are to be held from Devon to Mid Wales, Swansea to Co Durham and to us!

Robyn Hulme will speak on EasyRams and why they have invested in NZ genetics for their Suffolks, Texels and Sufftex

Murray Rohloff from NZ will speak about maximising profits from improvements within the farm gate. (Breeding and grassland management)

The host farmer will give a talk about their system on their farm

For further details of the open days, follow this link:


June 2013

MSG members the Welsh Family have announced an open day at Mossfennan, Broughton, Biggar, Peeblesshire ML12 6QJ on Thursday July 18th at 2pm. It is to be held in conjunction with EasyRams, the UK’s only breeders of 100% New Zealand genetically-sourced Suffolk, Texel and Sufftex rams. Full details to follow.

Earlier in a busy summer for Sandy, Ann and Tom, the Peeblesshire Monitor Farm group held its fourth meeting at Mossfennan on 22nd May 2013.

The aim of the meeting was to focus on EID and recording issues. After an initial update on Monitor Farm issues the group split into 3 smaller groupings.


Jennifer Brown, SAC, gave a resume of the legislation surrounding EID and circulated a “Dos and Don’ts of Sheep Tagging” (Link below):


Katie Keiley, Scottish Sheep Strategy Development Officer – spoke about the aims of the Scottish Sheep Strategy:

  • to encourage rapid uptake of breeding technology (EBV’S);
  • to reduce production costs;
  • to improve quality and consistency of Scotch lamb;
  • increase demand for recorded breeding stock
  • Overall to inspire a generation of sheep producers to buy recorded stock as common practice.


Tom Welsh spoke about how performance recording had been used at Mossfennan over the years and how EID was making data collection and use much easier and more comprehensive.

The farm walk element of the visit was to look at a trial in an old hill park. The area had been direct drilled last summer, and is being used this summer for rotational grazing, moving the sheep daily. The mob grazes the areas hard, resulting in better grass utilisation of the hill grass as well as the Italian ryegrass. The field has been divided up to ensure that the rotation lasts 21 days, the optimal time for grass regrowth. The ewes are currently getting 20 m2 each per day, giving a stocking density of 200 ewes an acre and an overall stocking rate of 9.5 ewes an acre.

This is the first time rotational grazing has been tried on this farm in the summer within one field however the farm works on a large scale rotational system moving large mobs from field to field throughout the summer months. This has increased their performance from grass as well as allowing them to make silage from the surplus in good grass growing years. They also find that as the sheep are handled daily they are easier to manage when they need to be gathered.

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January 2013

Recent article profiling our very own Ian Duncan Millar, making performance-recorded Blackface and Easycare genetics pay in Perthshire.


































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