The makers of waterproofs claim that there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.

However good or bad this past year’s weather has been rated by those in the forecasting profession, few farmers would disagree that a dripping autumn, late blizzards in lambing, drought throughout our main growing season and now broken weather at harvest has made life difficult and costly. It's ram sale time now so it would be nice to see the sun again.

It is interesting just how much our sheep breeds have diverged in appearance in a relatively short time. The traditional and the crossing Bluefaced Leicesters are now almost two different breeds. The body shapes of the Beltex and the Texel grow further apart by the year. Blackies, too, are very different now to what they were when I had them 15 years ago.

Of course, there is nothing new in this. North Country Cheviots split from their South Country brethren and formed a separate flock book just after the Second World War. Even then, Northies sold at Lairg, Hawick and Thurso were very different.

Blackies, too, although they didn’t have a flock book, varied whether Lanark, Stirling/Perth or Newton Stewart. Lanark breeders in my time might buy from Newton Stewart, or vice-versa but seldom would they buy the north type.

We have sold Texels at Kelso for almost two decades. We never found it easy to find potential sires at Lanark as, although they had only been in the country for a short time, the Lanark and Kelso type had become recognisably different. The kind in demand at Kelso were bigger, stretchier and, in the eyes of pedigree Texel breeders, plainer. We had found the same with the Suffolk 20 years earlier.

The heavy boned, strong headed rams favoured at what was then the Edinburgh Sale never sold so well at Kelso as the bigger longer kind. Many of the latter came from Northumberland. We thought they were outstanding and based our own type on that model with no regrets.

Since then, we have modified them further with infusions of New Zealand genetics as I have no doubt that labour efficiency, whatever happens with Brexit, will become the major factor in who remains in sheep production in the future.

In fact overseas, as with our cattle breeds, performance is moving on from visual aspects such as growth and external assessment of carcase quality to things the eye can never evaluate such as fertility, fecundity, disease resistance and eating quality.

Our visit to the Texel sale at Lanark resulted in us making a purchase for the first time for many years. Unlike a few years back, there were plenty of lambs with length and scope with no obvious loss of gigot.

Maybe with my hill farming heritage, I like to see smooth, shiny hair on a ram and the Cheviot in me likes the hair to be the purest white. I realise that these things are of little economic importance, however when you have to look at something every day it helps when it is visually appealing.

As last year, the scarcity of performance information, which is an important sales tool at Kelso, was noticeable. The stacking of pedigrees of sheep born by ET and its insidious effect on ease of lambing and milkiness concerns me. It is the nurse cow syndrome, which did so much to harm our native cattle breeds, all over again.

The first Texels I ever saw were at Colmslie, the home of one of the original importers, James Dun. They were much more like today’s Beltex than the Texel now in fashion. The Beltex, too, has had a successful ram selling season, so it seems that there is a type to suit everyone’s system.

I recently saw an aerial photo of Hawick Auction Mart taken sometime in the 1950s or 1960s. Forty thousand lambs were sold over three days and the county of Roxburghshire at that time grazed more sheep than any other in the UK. I remember with mixed feelings that huge sale, which lasted until late afternoon.

The site is now a supermarket and I sometimes wonder where all the sheep have gone. Actually, it is obvious where they have gone. After a very prosperous post-war period, sheep were, by the 1960s, no longer paying.

Most of the arable farms in The Borders had a flock of Half-bred ewes. Their owners, looking for an easier life, put the sheep off. Their North Country Cheviot dams on the upland farms were replaced by the more prolific and easier 'herded Mules and the Border Leicester lost its crown as 'King of the Ring' to the Blueface. Many farmers on the higher hills sold off their Blackies and huge areas were planted with Sitka spruce.

It was a bad time for sheep. Breeds which had been mainstays of the industry and which had either failed to evolve or maybe had just become victims of circumstance faded into obscurity.

Around the same time, Continental breeds – such as the Texel and Charollais – came into the country and largely replaced the Oxfords and, to a lesser degree, the Hampshires, making large inroads into territory held by the Suffolk. But, more recently, New Zealand breeds and their derivatives are starting to gain a foothold in the commercial ewe flock.

It all demonstrates that economics dictate that only the most progressive have succeeded in the past. Nothing will change in the future and 'the deil will tak' the hindmost'.

Commercial flock-masters are increasingly demanding that ewe breeds are prolific, milky and easy care in all aspects and that terminal sires have growth, carcase quality and can lamb themselves – and with figures to prove it.

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