Farm Of The Week: Bleu is the colour of a show breed

Stuart Goldie

Stuart Goldie

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You only have to spend a couple of minutes talking about farming with Stuart Goldie to realise how passionate he is about the subject.

The proud owner of a flock of rare breed sheep, he eulogises about their quality and versatility as stock.

Mr Goldie runs a flock of Bleu Du Maine sheep, not the most instantly recognisable of breeds.

Originally from the hills of western France the breed, developed from the crossing of Leicester Longwool and Wensleydale, was imported during the 1800s.

While not commonly farmed in the UK, Mr Goldie has nothing but praise for the hardy breed.

“One of the main attractions is the fact that you find they are easy to breed – you almost never have any lambing problems.

“They are fast growing and produce a wonderful lean meat.

“Some breeds get very fat at a certain stage, but Bleu Du Maines remain full of quality.

“I have worked with them for a lot of years and they really are tremendous mothers. They are very milky and the lambs are very hardy.

“They are a fine breed and you never have any problems, they really help themselves which is a big advantage.

“I do think people would really see the advantage of keeping them. If you cross them with a Beltex or Texel you get great results.”

The sheep themselves are very distinctive, with he slate blue grey colouring on its head setting it apart.

It first arrived in the UK in 1982 and was primarily promoted as a female producer due to its traits of prolificacy, milkiness and easy lambing.

It is still used as a terminal sire in some areas on downland and hill breeds.

Mr Goldie speaks from a position of some authority on the matter.

He is president of the Bleu du Maine breed society, a position he was elected to in October last year.

“It was very kind of them to elect me,” he said. “I fully intend to do my bit to promote the breed.

“A lot of it involves just getting out to shows and flying the flag for the breed.” And this summer he has been doing just that, winning awards galore for his sheep.

At last week’s Great Yorkshire Show, sadly called off after one day due to the rain, he took the Champion Ewe & Breed Champion and the coveted Champion Male & Lowland Interbreed Champion (male) awards.

Earlier in the year he won the interbreed title at the Royal Highland Show.

“The Royal Highland Show was unreal, a dream come true.

“It is not often expected that the minority breeds will win. Normally you expect it to be a Charolais or a Texel or something – nine times out of 10 it is one of those breeds.

“Showing is very unpredictable though so it was fantastic to get such a result against other very strong animals.”

Running the Bleu du Main flock for Mr Goldie is very much a case of him coming full circle.

Based in the picturesque village of Maunby, near Thirsk in North Yorkshire, since 1980 he finds himself in an ideal place for farming, with sheep farming intrinsically linked with Yorkshire for centuries.

Born in the lowlands of Scotland, the son of a farmer, he found himself raised with animals around him.

And while his career would take him away from farming he has since returned to the business full time.

“I am from a farming family.

“I was the third son of three, and both of my brothers went into farming and between them they have five sons who are all farming. Under those circumstances I decided that I should perhaps think about doing something else.”

Instead Mr Goldie studied agricultural matters at university before going to work at ICI, eventually working at the headquarters in Billingham, Teesside.

However, he found himself unable to keep away from his initial calling.

“Farming was obviously in my blood and we established a flock of blue domains in 1988.”

Initially, the flock was small and was run by Mr Goldie and his family. However since retiring from his work he has been able to concentrate on the sheep full time.

He paid tribute to his children, Hannah and Robert, who he says have been a big help over the years with the work he has done with the flock. He keeps the sheep around four miles outside of the village, with a few being kept at his home. All are brought to his house during lambing, with a lamb shed installed at the home.

In all he has around 50 breeding ewes, plus their progeny.

“We keep the best females for breeding and use our own tups. Sometimes we buy in from outside blood lines.

“I think when it comes to the sales people will really be taking notice. We want to keep raising standards and keep the quality really high.”

The success at the Great Yorkshire Show really capped off a strong period for his flock.

“It was great because the Great Yorkshire Show has really replaced the Royal Show as the national event.

“It was fantastic to be able to promote ourselves too.”

As well as his involvement with the Bleu du Maine breed society, Mr Goldie is also heavily involved in the Yorkshire Agricultural Society which runs the show.

“The calibre of the people involved with the event is superb, there are some really good people involved with it. It does great work with schools and is a really fantastic institution.”

Mr Goldie remains committed to the breed and his flock and has one central objective for the coming months and years, which he says is to “produce breeding stock to sell to other breeders”.

The next big thing on his calendar will come on August 17 when he travels to a big sheep sale at Carlisle.

The sale will be the biggest event of the year for the breed society and Mr Goldie says he is very keen to use it to showcase the Bleu Du Maines.

“We have quite a few sheep going to this one,” he said.

“There will be breeders from all over the country and we will try to fly the flag for the breed again.

“We will have our own slot at the sale, with a show beforehand – it is the prime sale of the year for us.

“This is where you hope that your success in the show ring pays off and that people will be sufficiently interested to buy the stock.

“That’s the name of the game after all.”

For more information on the breed visit www.bleudumaine.co.uk

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