The Greyface has been the backbone of lowland sheep farming and, as such, merits all the support that can be given to it.
That’s the opinion of prominent County Antrim exhibitor 35 year old Mr James Armstrong, Knockboy, Broughshane, Ballymena, who is presently preparing his Greyface team for this year’s “Royal Ulster”.
Says James: “I believe the Greyface – a cross between the Border Leicester ram and Blackface ewe – offers an excellent commercial sheep which has stood the lowland farmer in good stead over the years.
“Ideally the Greyface should be crossed again with the Suffolk for the perfect fat lamb but many farms, like my own, are too high for the development of this line. However, the Greyface itself has proved a satisfactory compromise.”
James points to the hardiness, growth and milking qualities of the Blackface combined with the growth and size of the Border Leicester as justifying his faith in the Greyface.
He regrets the “pushing out” of sheep by the dairy herd and is convinced that “a lucrative combination of both enterprises” can be introduced.
In his support for shows James Armstrong is carrying on a family tradition initiated by his father – also James – who still takes an active interest in the selection and preparation of the animals.
On shows generally James comments: “I suppose they are useful as a shop window for stock,” he remarked, “but I believe the keen ‘hobby’ interest of the exhibitors really keeps them going. Certainly the prize money offered is not a serious consideration.
“The healthy spirit of rivalry is one of the outstanding features and I have found the genuine spirit very much in evidence with participation, rather than winning, the main consideration.”
However, it is the question of judging standards which causes James the greatest concern.
“I have judged at Derry and Saintfield so when I say that the whole thing has become a bit of a gamble I am criticising myself,” he declared. “But recent results have been amazing in their inconsistency.
“Last year one of my sheep shot up from ninth to top place at two shows taking place within a few days of each other and with the entries remaining the same. Which judge was right?”