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Cumbria Jacob breeder savours even more success after taking top wool award
Aug '09
A Cumbria Jacob sheep breeder has been sweeping the board at many of the summer's most prestigious shows this season, but after introducing new bloodlines into his flock to improve wool quality he's not only been consistently successful in fleece competitions but beat all-comers at this year's Great Yorkshire Show to win the coveted Wool on the Hoof title with a Jacob ram.

Clive Richardson from Swarthmoor, Ulverston – who for many years was a leading exhibitor of Fell ponies and secretary of the Fell Pony Society – established his Border flock of pedigree Jacob sheep in the mid-1980s.

His first ever breed championship came at Garstang Show almost 20 years ago. Since then sheep bred in the Border flock have taken breed titles at most of the UK's top shows including the Royal Show, Royal Highland, Great Yorkshire and Royal Welsh. His most successful year was 2006 when he won 28 championships and reserve championships. In total the Border Jacob flock has notched up well over 170 titles at shows all over the UK.

“Winning does get harder because the quality of the Jacob breed has improved significantly in recent years – and once you've achieved a certain reputation in the ring with good sheep it's an even bigger challenge to maintain it. But that's what showing is all about,” says Clive Richardson.

Although the breed is extremely popular with smallholders – not only because of its attractive appearance but also because of the excellent flavour of its meat – the wool of the Jacob has not always been its forte. Although appealing for its colour, there has been room for improvement in the quality of the fleece.

“The carcase, size and substance of the Jacob has kept on improving but the wool has often been criticised for being coarse and I knew I needed to do something about it in my own flock.”

He turned to a flock in Dorset owned by the Milner family whose Jacob sheep were renowned for their fleece quality. The Milners had achieved such an improvement with the wool of their Jacob sheep that one of their fleeces had won the Golden Fleece award – once one of the sheep industry's most sought after honours.

Clive bought stock from the Milner's Knowlton flock with the sole intention of improving the fleeces of his own sheep.

“The Milners told me that good wool was very inheritable in sheep and that by bringing in bloodlines from their flock I would quickly see an improvement in the fleeces of my own stock – and they were absolutely right.”

The ram Clive brought back to Cumbria – Knowlton Kynaston – is the sire of Border Lancer who is the ram that won the Great Yorkshire Show's Wool on the Hoof competition last month (July) and has accounted for a fistful of wins in his show career. He was unbeaten last year in ram classes and this season has taken the reserve breed championship at the Royal Highland and the breed championship at the Royal Welsh Show.

“It was wonderful to win the Wool on the Hoof competition at the Great Yorkshire Show. There's tremendous competition for this award and to own the first Jacob to take the title proved just what can be achieved by making a conscious decision to improve wool quality.”

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