JACOBS may not be every sheep farmer’s first choice when it comes to selecting a breed to suit their system, but for one youngster from the North-east, who was introduced to the breed seven years ago, their choice has been more than worthwhile.
Believed to be the oldest sheep breed in the world and renowned for its hardy, easy lambing and good mothering attributes, Adam Christie (16), from Midtown of Glass, near Huntly, has never looked back since he purchased his first female Jacob in 2010, having picked up a number of championships at shows over the years, as well as having topped the breed’s society sale at St Boswells. 
“Jacobs have good maternal traits, are easy lambed and have the ability to produce good crops of lambs. They always produce plenty of milk and can easily rear triplets,” said Adam, who although is in his fifth year at school and is studying four highers, now runs a flock of 26 pedigree females under his Adamski prefix.
Adam added: “There is a stigma attached to Jacobs whereby lots of people think they are just a hobby breed. They are very under-rated and under-estimated.”

The Scottish Farmer:

Some of the 26 breeding females which are due to lamb in January 

Adam’s father, Gary, who runs the family’s 400-acre unit which is home to 110 Simmental cross cows, 40 pedigree Simmentals and Adam’s grandfather, Hugh’s 40 Texel cross ewes, said: “The Jacob lambs always have plenty vigour about them when they’re born and they’re quick to suckle. They’ve managed to attract commercial sheep breeders too who opt for an easier lambing with ewe hoggs, including ourselves.”
Having aimed to build up the flock, the majority of females are kept as replacements, with the occasional female sold privately or either at the society sale at St Boswells or at Thainstone. Those that don’t quite make the cut are sold direct to Woodhead Bros at Turriff, and both Adam and Gary praise the breed for continuing to achieve the 21kg carcase weight from early summer, hitting the market at peak trade. 
“The lambs are born in January and the ones destined for Woodhead Bros can all be away by early June, having been fed naturally on grass,” commented Adam, adding that they usually produce U grades. 
Breeding females, which are both two and four-horned and mainly home-bred, are sponged to lamb from January onwards and this year’s lambing percentage scanned at 231%. More impressively, 16 ewes produced 37 lambs, with just one loss. 
Originally, the ewes were lambed in the spring outside, but to suit show and sale dates, they were pulled forward earlier to lamb. 
Now all lamb inside, though they are fairly low maintenance in terms of feeding, being fed on ewe rolls three weeks prior to lambing, alongside pre-lambing mineral buckets. Once lambs reach four weeks, they are fed on Harbro starter pellets. 
It’s the four-horned type that Adam tends to focus on due to them being preferred by other Scottish breeders but he commented that they’re harder to breed compared to the two-horned type.
“Four-horned sheep are much harder to breed because you find more faults in them than the two-horned type, such as forward horns and split eye lids.”
Those faults certainly come into consideration when Adam is purchasing four-horned stock tups for his growing flock.
“I like to buy a powerful and good sized tup with straight horns, a clean skin and with a tight, decent fleece. They must have good, white legs with no black spots on them or black spots under their white wool,” said Adam.
Those were the characteristics of Blackbrook Dragon, a tup which has made a real mark in the flock for Adam, producing a good crop of lambs which are now some of the best females found in the Adamski team today. 

The Scottish Farmer:

Adamski’s stock tup, Hope Knockout, which was purchased at St Boswells last year for £1000 after he stood reserve champion

Purchased at St Boswells, in 2012, as an aged tup from Tom Reilly, he was the sire of Adam’s sale leader at St Boswells in 2016, Adamski Drifter, which sold for £1950 to David Sizer’s Laurels flock, at Darlington. 
On the debit side, that same day, Adam purchased Hope Knockout, the reserve champion from Welsh breeder, DW Harries, Llandeilo. Now Adam’s only stock sire for the flock, he was bought for £1000. 
But although hitting the headlines in the past at both the society sale at St Boswells and at Aberdeen and Northern Marts’ rare breed sale at Thainstone, its Adam’s impressive collection of show tickets which he has picked up over the years that really makes the job all the more rewarding. 
This year’s show season which stretches from Nairn to Fettercairn, and everywhere in between, saw the Adamski flock produce 17 first prize tickets, four overall championships and four reserve championships, as well as the reserve overall title at the Highland with a home-bred ewe lamb, Adamski Lottie. 

The Scottish Farmer:

Adam stood champion in the Jacob section at Grantown Show this year with his home-bred ewe lamb, Adamski Lottie

Adam also stood overall champion at Thainstone’s rare breed sale with Adamski Bandit. 
And a show ticket that will definitely go down in the flock’s history, was his first prize win at the Central Region show and sale at Worcester, when his two-horned tup lamb, Adamski Revel, was top of a class of 25. As a result, he caught the eye of Jerry Strong and Lorna Hendy, of the Elmley flock based in Worcestershire – they purchased Revel for 800gns.
“It really is rewarding when you pick up prizes at a show. All the hard work has paid off and it’s a good advert for when it comes to sale time,” said Adam, commenting that his mum, Angela, dresses all the sheep destined for shows and sales, with help at shows from his dad and grandfather.
Although the Jacob is believed to be an improving breed in the past 40 years and various shows are seeing increased entries within the breed section, Adam stressed that they are not recognised enough, despite being the easiest of breeds to get into.
“There are only a small number of youngsters involved with Jacob sheep in Scotland and I would like to encourage a few more to start their own flocks.
“The Jacob is not a breed where you have to fork out a lot of money to start up a flock and you can easily get a quick return with them and have a lot of fun at the same time,” concluded Adam.