There can be few more dedicated, enthusiastic Texel sheep breeders, than the Clark family from Lesmahagow, who year in, year out not only produce some of the leading shearlings, ram lambs and females.
Add to that, their success at both local and national agricultural shows, and it comes as no surprise that the family – brothers, Alan, Andrew and David, and their mother, Helen – is also a regular recipient of the highly prized Scottish Texel flock competition.
In there since the start, it was the boys’ late father and uncle, Jim and Archie Clark, respectively, who bought into the breed in 1974, purchasing two gimmers from the first importation. And now, more than 40 years later after some notable stockjudging wins – both Alan and Andrew are former YFC stockmen of the year, with Dye finishing second on two occasions – they are reaping the benefits of those initial purchases and their own stockmanship skills.
“Demand for Texel females is stronger than ever,” said Andrew. “Good quality stock will always sell, but the number of new breeders coming into Texels and looking to buy females in this country and abroad, is unbelievable,” he said, adding that outwith their annual sale of gimmers and ewe lambs at the Select Seven Sale, females are regularly sold privately.

The Scottish Farmer:

Clark family David, Helen, Andrew and Alan

Being a high health flock and scrapie monitored, females from their three flocks – Garngour, Clarks and Teiglum, which are run as one and number 70 breeding ewes – are also in demand abroad. 
Over the years, the three flocks, which are based between the three almost neighbouring farms, North Garngour, Blackhill and Lee Meadow, totalling 1300 acres, have sold females to The Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland, Southern Ireland and embryos and semen to Brazil.
It is, nevertheless, the home market which they concentrate on most and this year, for the first time in a while, they have 10 gimmers entered between the three forthcoming breed sales at Lanark, Worcester and Carlisle. Their usual consignment of 20 will also be forward for the Select Seven sale in December.

However, while there is no disputing the ever increasing demand for Texel females, it is the ram lamb sales where the real excitement lies, with the Clarks under more pressure than most, having produced the top priced lamb at the Lanark sale three times in the past 10 years.
In 2007, Garngour Nirvana made 40,000gns and Teiglum Tornado sold for 60,000gns in 2012. Last year, Teiglum Young Gun, sold for a whopping 70,000gns.

The Scottish Farmer:

Garngour Al Pacino and Apollo are both destined for Lanark 

Outwith that cracking lamb sale, 2016 was undoubtedly one of the family’s best years, also producing the leading recorded flock average at Kelso in the Texel shearling section.
In addition, last year was the first time the family produced the breed champion at the Royal Highland Show, with a gimmer by Castlecairn Vavavoom which two weeks later went on to be crowned Texel champion and inter-breed sheep at the Great Yorkshire.
They’ve not done so badly this year either, taking the breed championship and reserve inter-breed at one of Scotland’s biggest Texel shows, at Lesmahagow, with a gimmer. And last month, the family secured the reserve breed honours at the first National Show at Biggar, with another gimmer.
Next week is the real biggie though, with the first of the ram sales kicking off at Lanark, where the team has nine lambs and for the first time, two gimmers, up for grabs.
Most of the lambs are sons of 15,000gns shared Knock Yardsman, a Tophill Wallstreet son, and Fordafourie Youngstar, both bought last year at Lanark.
“We always look to buy the tup that will most benefit our breeding females which is not necessarily the best or the top priced tup at the sale,” said Alan.
“If we can, we like to get round a lot of flocks and see the lambs at home, and if possible, their mothers. We saw Yardsman at home and his dam and knew he was the one for us,” he added.
“The Texel was imported as a carcase breed, so we look to breed sheep with body, shape and backend first and foremost and then we look for breed character in the head. Ideally, we are looking to breed good, balanced, modern sheep with a bit of neck, and, sheep that will last.”
Like all top breeders, flushing the best females is a big part of the business, but the boys are extremely selective about the females they take embryos from.

The Scottish Farmer:

Show team and some of the flushing ewes

Andrew added: “There is no doubt embryo transfer has helped to improve the quality of the breed, but it has to be used sensibly. We would never flush problem ewes and while we have flushed ewe lambs, we only take embryos from lambs bred from good, trouble-free families.”
Most years, about 20 females are flushed, with only three flushed twice last year, 35 days apart. To date, it has been the younger females that have proved the most successful, producing 80% conception rates using fresh embryos.
Such is the family’s enthusiasm for the Texel breed, that home-bred three-quarter Texel cross ewes from the business’ commercial flock are used as recipients.
David said: “We reckon Texel cross Mule ewes from our commercial flock make the best recipients and those which aren’t used are crossed to a home-bred Texel to produce fat lambs. The good thing about the Texel is that all lambs can be sold purely off grass. Our lambs are all away by the end of the year and none of them ever get any extra feeding.
“Texel cross cull ewes also sell well, with some making more than £100 this year,” he said. 

The Scottish Farmer:

Garngour Aerosmith, Teiglum Archie and Garngour Action Man

In previous years, the remaining pedigree ewes were always AI’d using fresh semen. However, in a bid to tighten up next year’s lambing period, the boys hope to be able to tup them naturally, provided they are able to find a good stock ram for them.
They are also looking to lamb slightly later. 
“Lambing in March is a more natural time for the ewes and March-born lambs are never ‘over the top.’ It is really difficult to get the balance right between having lambs big and strong enough to compete in the market place but also having sheep that still look bright, sharp and sparky as lambs,” said Andrew.
Pedigree breeding is a 24/7 occupation, but if that wasn’t enough to be going on with, Helen and the boys have other enterprises to attend to. 
Between three units, alongside the pedigree flock, the family also milk 120 Holstein cows and run just short of 200 suckler cows (with the majority of calves selling as stores), and 560 commercial ewes.
Helen is based at the home farm at North Garngour, with Alan and his wife, Marla and their young family, while Andrew and Lynsey and 
their youngsters live at Blackhill, and David and his girlfriend Elizabeth, are at Lee Meadow.
There can be no doubting life is extremely busy for all the Clarks, but for them and many others, the whole year revolves around next week’s sale at Lanark. It all starts again the same day too, with stock rams to find and buy, followed by a few more stressful days flushing ewes and before you know it, there are gimmers to prepare for the Select Seven sale. Who said it was easy being a farmer?