MARCH 2019



   We thought it time to add some guard dog power to the lineup since both our old dogs are gone, leaving just Jill.  Here is a pup for Jill to mentor. Kenny is pictured at 12 weeks. He is a Karakachen, a Bulgarian shepherd dog we recently purchased from Quincy McMichael in nearby Greenbrier County,WV. 


 This is an ancient breed, used by the nomadic Karakachen shepherds in the Balkans for centuries, but in modern times numbers have dwindled, and efforts have been made to help preserve this resource. In recent years, Dr Philip Sponenberg from VA Tech has been instrumental in importing several dogs from Bulgaria, and forming the breed association in U.S.A.

            Related image
    You never know who might show up with a Karakachan.

Bulgaria was formerly part of the Soviet Union.

  AUGUST 2018

MAKING A $1000 SPLASH -           
                             VIRGINIA RAM TEST SALE        



  2018 West Virginia State Fair
       Junior Show Supreme Ewe 
            Ethan Legget, Gilmer County.
A  2612 daughter purchased from us at the Petersburg WV sale 2017

  I was joking with Ethan's mom about how big he has grown.
"I'll bet the football coach follows him down the hall at school" ,
 I speculated. 

"He's home schooled." she replied with a smile.

 JUNE 2018

 Pictured is a yearling ram that was top selling North Country at the 2018  West Virginia Purebred Sheep Sale. He brought $875 and was consigned by Dee Sampson from Oregon. His sire was a TANK son we sold her a few years ago, and he is pictured below, an image sent to us by Ms Sampson. I really liked this yearling am, and felt he had qualities that many North Country sheep lack, especially bone, girth and breed type. He was purchased by Howard Henderson, up and coming WV breeder.

DOG UPDATE Spring 2018

Jack had a bad habit of rambling off the farm, with his sister in tow. That finally got him fired. We gave him away to a good new home, and Jill has never strayed since he left.  Blue and Jill are happy together, and hopefully Jill can learn from the old dog.

September 2017

             Jack and Jill   10 months  


Below our young friend Noah Barkley from Pocahontas County shows his ram lamb. Beside him is buddy Kyle Cohenour and the fleece off the "TANK" son we sold Noah and his dad Matthew about three years ago. The fleece was Grand Champion in the wool show.




   Bob Salmon in Missouri has bought 4 rams from us in recent years. He was kind enough to send us this picture of a yearling ewe sired by a High Road ram, with her new lambs by another High Road ram. Bob keeps North Country sheep in a commercial program, which he lambs about grass time in the spring, and runs them on an all grass diet - no grain.  He finds the North Country sheep work well under this system, and sells his lambs in the fall off pasture. 
  We are pleased that our genetics provide sheep that can do the job in a low maintenance practical program. Bob also runs cattle and raises and trains Border Collies. Bob is another friend I have never met, but we hope to see his operation before too long.

  Speaking of such grass based programs, we can think of ram customers in such diverse places as Oregon, Minnesota, Vermont and Pennsylvania who have in common the fact that they have grass based flocks using North Country Cheviots. This illustrates the fct that this is the breed that can do it, unlike so many breeds whose dependence on grain has been so long maintained that their participation in a forage based regime is not a reality.
    The Scottish type of North Country Cheviot is the kind it takes, medium framed, big barreled and thick, rather than the tall, shallow bodied "show jock" kind, some of which sad to say are not all North Country.
   This no doubt explains the demand we have for rams from far away places. Those folks know the kind it takes.



      Dee Sampson from Oregon sent us this picture of the powerful "Tank" son we sold her a few years ago. She has 15 yearling ewes by him with lambs on them  She is very pleased with her ram and his progeny. She is another dedicated sheep lover whom I have never met, but enjoy hearing from.



We were sad to lose our guard dog Red, who had been with us since the sheep were bought in 2008.  Her sister Blue is still on the job, but we thought it was probably time to break in some young talent.
Above are pictured litter mate brother and sister Great Pyrenees, Jack and Jill, 10 weeks old, from nearby Greenbrier County, West Virginia. David and Debbie Childers raised them, and their sire is a Kirk Walton dog from Pocahontas County. Julie taught Kirk in school, and I coached him in soccer. He was a fine athlete, and definitely one of my top players, lately making a splash with his sheep.




 I asked Olivia what llamas do when scared or upset. She said they spit at you. I did not have long to wait.  She got me right between the eyes, as soon as Olivia left. May got to hear some words she surely never heard from Olivia.



 We did not have top selling ram this year, but are happy to report that our young friend Mikey Callison did.  He has worked diligently on building his Dorset program, and this year rang the bell, including the two top sellers, and his three rams averaging $1050.
   Below is lot 12, as good a Dorset as we have seen at the ram test, who posted a whopping 149 test gain ratio, and sold to Idaho for $1050, while a brother topped the sale at $1300

A ram with great style and balance, muscle shape, rib and girth. We hope to see many more Dorsets built like him. We went to Steeles Tavern to take pictures of our rams, but told Mikey we would include his best one too.

  AUGUST  2015



                      SUFFOLK  - C RENO 510      
       "JOE MONTANA"

       From Big Sky Suffolks, Billings, Montana, comes this stylish patterned meaty ram lamb, a triplet.
Heavy in British genetics, both of his parents were Idaho bred in the Alan Batt flock and descend from the great Stockton Supersire 95. Our thanks to Joe Emenheiser for scouting him for us while on a trip to Chris Reno's farm.

Pictured May 2017 - 2 year old. Probably the best mannered ram we ever had

               MALOY 0096 RR    -  " TANK JR."

   "TANK" was the most popular ram we ever used, and we had hoped to keep his best son. We sold this ram's dam to Mike and Priscilla Maloy in Highland County before he was born, but liked him well enough, we bought him back as a yearling. Looking much like his sire, he exhibits similar power, mass, balance and bone.


               TOP SELLING RAM 

          Lot 238     510   Twin Jan 16.
   Sire : MacCauley 2612
   Dam : High Road 303  by Emennheiser 1P
    British genetics on both sides

  $1500 to Emily Lenschow, Tuckahoe Lamb and Cattle
 Carterssville,VA. Emily bought a group of North Country ewe lambs four years ago. Thanks to Emily for her support.
       2nd highest price ever at VA ram test sale.

   We were pleased to ring the bell with a Suffolk. This is for sure the best one we have produced to date, and we are happy that the plan is coming together.  This ram exemplifies the kind we strive to duplicate, and we feel we have the genetic components in place to make many more like him.






  We saw this fine ewe at the Petersburg sale last May. She came from the Tom Barkham flock in Michigan. I thought her the best female in the sale, but apparently the judge did not, since she placed 5th out of 6 in the yearling ewe class.
   Ashley Craun, pictured with me above, expertly fitted and showed her for us, and she was Reserve Grand Champion female at the National Show, held at the West Virginia State Fa
ir. We did not buy her to show, and seldom show at all, but we enjoyed rolling the dice with one as good as she is.
          We look forward to her joining the breeding flock.

See her June picture below.


Caithness Show, Scotland 

 Thanks to our longtime friend, Innes Miller, we get a look at pictures from the Caihness Show, an event I promote as the largest show of North Country Cheviots in the world. Caithness is the county where the breed was developed, and is Scotland's norternmost mainland county, hence the breed name.
The rams pictured illustrate the massive stature of the Scottish sheep 



  Below we see why Innes described this year's show as a mud bath.     


  We paid a visit to Susan and Barry Davies in Maryland who own the old Willis flock that I originally founded in the sixties with Canadian imports. Susan was kind enough to let us into her lamb crop. Here are 5 of the 10 ewe lambs we bought sired by McHale 001, the Reserve National Show Champion from 2013. Pictured right after unloading from 300 mile trip. 

JUNE 2015

      Purchased at the 2015 National Sale was this yearling ewe from the Tom Barkham flock in Michigan. We had no plans to buy any females, but thought she was the right kind. Extra stylish and feminine, a real brood ewe prospect.


Jay and Georgia Best from Vermont have 9 ewes bought from us that had their second lamb crop last spring 2015.
The 9 ewes produced 21 lambs - 4 sets of triplets, 4 sets of twins and one single, all living.  This represents 233% lambing percentage, which is extraordinary.



October 2014
              This picture, entitled "North Country Chill" won third place in its category in the American Sheep Industry magazine photography contest. It was taken in the nasty winter of 2013-14 on the Bowen farm near Hot Springs,VA  featuring two ewe lambs we kept. This marks the third year running we have had a prize winner in the photo contest.

August 2014

                 RECORD BREAKER


   One of the last Suffolk rams sold by John Scott was this one, #228 pictured at the 2014 Virginia Ram Lamb Performance Test. His 4.23 loin measurement was the highest ever recorded at the Virginia test as far as we could determine. His parentage included sheep from the Joe Emenheiser program, featuring imported genetics, and the ram was clearly a standout as a high performing, power packed example of the kind we seek. 
    The ram topped the sale at $1650, a record for the VA Ram Test Sale. We, along with Joe Emenheiser, were runner up bidders. I shot his picture to remind us of a good one that got away.

(I think this is a great picture- I should have prefaced that by using a favorite West Virginia intro -"Not braggin but".......}



                                    100,000 SHEEP

  Rev.Calvin McCutcheon from Buckhannon,WV, started shearing sheep long ago as a young man, and at the 2014 West Virginia State Fair, at 77 years of age, sheared sheep number 100,000. A longtime competitor in the fair shearing contest, he had a large crowd on hand to watch him set a mark that may never be surpassed.
    I was privileged to have participated in another shearing milestone achieved by Mr. McCutcheon back around 1980, when I caught sheep for him as he set the West Virginia state record for a 10 hour day with 335 sheep. That took place on the farm of our good neighbors Dick and Lanty McNeel, near Hillsboro in Pocahontas County.  As much as the McNeels helped me, I gladly served as one of the crew on shearing day each year.  
       I did not catch every sheep, there were other helpers, but well remember that special day.  We did break for lunch, and as usual Peggy McNeel, such a warm hearted and kind lady, had prepared a feast. I enjoyed conversation with Calvin, who was interested in hearing just how many Presbyterian clergymen there were in my Celtic pedigree! 


     I asked Calvin at the fair if he was hanging up his shears. He said he would still like to shear some, but not at the rate he used to.

Lanty and Janet were on hand to watch Calvin shear, where Lanty had been a worthy competitor himself in his younger days.


May 2014

John Scott, right, with "The Virginia Suffolk Syndicate", from left, Dalton Bennett, Martin Macqueen and Dr Joe Emenheiser, the day after Joe had graduated PhD from VA Tech, and we met at John's farm near Princeton,WV to pick up sheep. John had elected to reduce his workload and sell his fine Suffolk flock, so we had gathered to make sure the sheep found a good home - ours.
    Joe has taken a post as Livestock Specialist with the University of Vermont, where we surely wish he and Megan well.
     John's quality flock provided the basis for all of our Suffolk programs. 
  "Old guys" like John and I are privileged to work with such practical and progressive young sheepmen, and  look forward to the next generation of sheep that we trust will take us all to the next level.

                 John says he thinks he may recognize some of this lineup from post office visits.

 July 2014                  

   Synchronicity and Other Rewards

    The photograph above illustrates  something we find greatly rewarding about being in the sheep business - the opportunity to make the acquaintance of so many good folks, with sheep being our common bond.

   We have lately enjoyed visits from several, such as Mike and Priscilla Maloy from Culpeper, the Ramsays from Fishersville,Va, the Chad Joines family from Blackburg and the Ackers from North Carolina, all of whom bought sheep.
     Jeff Shumate from Highland County brought a gooseneck load of real sheep hay last fall in exchange for a Suffolk ram. Jeff can tell some stories, having sheared sheep in Australia and New Zealand in years past.
        Jason Gillan from nearby Greenbrier County,WV needed some yearling rams. We had none old enough, but had a good visit anyway.                                   
      We also have friends we have never met, like Bob Salmon from Missouri and Dee Samson from Oregon who have bought five rams sight unseen between them. We certainly hope to find the opportunity to visit both someday.  Bob is a Border Collie man which
opens up another can of worms.
       Kim Caulfield  from Tennessee is a special lady with whom I have talked for hours by phone, but have never met. She engineered a deal to sell a ram for us to Debbie Apple in Kentucky. Kim is as knowledgeable about sheep breeds and breeding as anyone I know.
She enjoys Celtic music, so I made her a CD of some of my favorite tracks.
       More recently, Kim and her mom Jane found us another ram customer, in this came Daniel Douthit in Tennessee. We had the pleasure of finally meeting Jane, if not Kim, when we brought the ram near Interstate 81 to load him on Jane's trailer, which included some guard dog pups being delivered farther north.
      John Brasfield from North Carolina was the good Samaritan who rescued us when my old pickup quit on the way to Steele's Tavern with a load of test rams. We sent him a DVD of landscapes we took in Scotland.
       We had several sets of triplets last spring, and gave four lambs to local farm friends'  children. They all did a good job, and will likely keep their lambs to breed, so maybe we will have some new members of the sheep fraternity.
     Wanda Platte from Iowa buys North Country wool from us, and we share email stories. She is a State Police dispatcher, which prompted me to tell her about the time I was stopped at a police check when we lived in Iowa, and the trooper noticed my driver's
license mistakenly stated that I was a "white female" - so the cop is eyeballing me wondering just what the deal is.  He probably assumed  that my sex change surgery had gone badly wrong.
        Jay Best from Vemont bought sheep from us last year, and we have kept in touch now and then since he visited. . A couple of months ago, after no contact through the winter, I thought I should email Jay to see how his lambing went.  No sooner had I written a note, hit the "send" button and returned to the "inbox", there was a new email from him.
    We had been communicating simultaneously, after months out of touch. I guess they call  that synchronicity.



                             "BLOOD BROTHERS"


The picture was taken in Monroe County,WV, and shows the three sons of the record selling $2000 High Road 0085. The rams were owned by our friend Steve McHale, but we subsequently owned all three. On the left is McHalle 0001, "Big Daddy", Resrve Champion at the 2013 North Country Cheviot National Show for Susan Davies, Hurlock, MD. In the center is McHale 0002, "Tank" our stud ram, and sire of our Reserve Champion National Sale ram. On the right is McHale 0003, sold to Amy O'Donnell, Ebensburg,PA.


            2013 NATIONAL SHOW

                      WEST VIRGINIA STATE FAIR
                    LEWISBURG, WEST VIRGINIA



  Reserve Grand Champion Ram with owners Barry and Susan Davies, Bobbi McNabb and Macqueen.

    Read the full story of this ram on our "SALES" page.

    The National Show was a successful event, attracting 46 head from Michigan, Indiana, Maine, Maryland and Virginia, in addition to the home state. Breed Association president Don Thomas was on hand from Indiana, and we even had the bagpipes playing thanks to Don Dransfield, a local stockman and Shrthorn exhibitor. 
    We appreciate all those who traveled many miles to support the show and hope their visit to West Virginia was a memorable one.

                   HIGH ROAD PHOTOGRAPHY

 In 1999, I was briefly between jobs, and we had the opportunity to take over the eastern livestock photography circuit from Phil Reid, who had done it for 28 years. I had taken livestock pictures most of my life, but not professionally.
One might say we went in at the deep end- our first gig was the steer show at the Ohio State Fair. In addition to the Ohio State Fair, we did the Ohio Beef Expo, Keystone in Harrisburg, PA, the Maryland State Fair, Eastern National, West Virginia State Fair,WV 4H Roundup, North Carolina State Fair, North American in Louisville, KY and also worked the World Beef Expo in Milwaukee plus some jackpot steer shows.

   By the time I got busy working for John Mitchell's Falling Springs Farm, it was time time to cut the schedule way back, so we kept the two jobs we enjoyed the most, West Virginia and North Carolina State Fairs. As of this writing ,we have done both for 19 years. West Virginia State Fair is only 45 minutes from the house, and we have many longtime friends there. The North Carolina fair is in Raleigh, where we stay with our niece Robin, and obviously have got to know many good folks there, North Carolina being Julie's home state.
We have photographed cattle, hogs, sheep, goats,llamas, alpacas, poultry, horses and dogs along the way. (I had no clue how to picture a llama, but I soon learned that neither did the exhibitors, so I just acted like I knew what I was doing.)
In addition to the shows, we do a good amount of on farm photography, picturing and video taping sale cattle (and Boer Goats). With the advent of online sales, video is more important than ever, and our work has improved with added experience.
Dr Dan Eversole at Virginia Tech Has had us lecture to his livestock marketing class annually on livestock photography which we have been privileged to do also for 19 years to date.
My wife Julie has become very skilled on the computer, which has enhanced our work considerably. In addition, she capably handles the business end of High Road Photography. I also enjoy landscape photography, and we publish several postcards of local scenery sold nearby.
We have had a number of pictures win  in competition, both locally and nationally and have provided several magazine and book cover pictures.

      I long ago used to have a show on local public radio in West Virginia playing Celtic music and telling stories. It was called "The High Road", so we kept the name for the photo business and the sheep flock. 

    I might get back on the radio when I get too old for the sheep business 

 Below are some of our pictures

      Limousin - Nicholas Edwards,NC

   Simmental , Lisa Zirkle,VA.

      Hereford - Tony Edwards,VA

                    Simmental - VA Tech

         Charolais - VA Tech


       Simmental - Jonathan Massey,NC
          Salers - John Mitchell,VA

           Angus- Sugar Loaf,VA

      Hereford - VA Tech

  Shorthorn - Stefanie Willis, WV

   Angus - Foxcross,WV

  Crossbred - Wes Marshall,VA

   Angus - John Mitchell,VA

     Salers  - John Mitchell,VA
Cover photo - American Salers magazine.

  Olivia McHale, WV

    Market steer  - Annie Irons WV

                     Angos  - VA Tech

  Club Calf   - Devon Johnston,WV

     Crossbred barrow - Earlie Byrum, NC
    (breeder - left)

      Boer Goats - Able Acres. Indiana

       High Road Sheep - VA
            Ashley Craun is the handler.

  Knapp's Creek, Pocahontas County, WV

    Lisa Zirkle's Simmental cows on the Barry Armstrong farm, 
Pendleton County,WV.


      One distinct advantage of having a website such as this is, I can take the liberty of expressing some thoughts regarding the sheep business. I certainly would not expect everyone to agree.

                     WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO THE SHEEP?

      We were reluctantly forced to sell our sheep flock in the eighties when the coyotes moved in, and guard dogs were not yet recognized or readily available as the most viable remedy, at least in the East. Thirty years later we had the opportunity to get back the sheep business, as outlined elsewhere. We had watched the evolution of most of the meat breed sheep over the years, and were frankly appalled at what we saw. Moderately framed, meaty sheep with girth, volume and an appetite for grass had been largely superseded by a new model – this one drastically altered in the direction of grossly excessive frame size, length of leg, shallow body and flat rib, with lack of capacity and a seeming dependence on concentrate rations to maintain even minimal body condition.  Several years ago, the cattle business went size crazy, but after a while, saw the light and retreated to a more sensible and practical frame dimension.  In contrast, most of the sheep breeding business went in the same extreme direction and seemingly stayed there to a great extent. It is hard to comprehend why anyone thinks that rams need to weigh 400 pounds and stand tall enough to look many people in the eye. Our Eastern slaughter lamb demand calls for liveweights around 90-110 llbs. It therefore seems reasonable to use a commercial ram capable of siring a lamb that will finish at around that size. I suspect that too many of them are all frame and devoid of desirable finish at that weight. The biggest disservice of all perpetrated on the breeding flocks would in my opinion be the loss of foraging ability and profitable function created by the great increase in mature size. It seems any time breeding decisions stray too far from the median, a price will be paid. In this instance, maternal traits and longevity are likely compromised along with ease of keeping and roughage utilization.

     It seems that the show ring usually gets blamed for most of the problem. When the show flocks are described as “frame sheep”, one can get an inkling as to the shape things are in. I suppose if the judging is often handled by those who are not practical minded shepherds who make a living from sheep, it is inevitable that things can get off track as they have. Should a judge decide to become a crusader for a return to practicality, and place the sheep accordingly, his judging career will likely be brief and unhappy.

            Fortunately, there are shepherds who have not fallen into the trap, and maintain flocks with the accent on practical function and all the things that really matter. We trust there are enough of those folks around to not only preach the gospel of salvation, but provide sufficient desirable genetics to lead us back to the paths of righteousness.

  This picture was taken at the Virginia Ram Performance Test. Two Dorset rams provide a graphic illustration of contrasting types. The ram on the right displays width of base, girth and muscle shape. On the left stands a taller, slimmer, flat muscled narrow individual. If faced with the prospect of using a sheep like that, I would surely have to cringe.          



    This year, 2013, I happened to have four early commercial ram customers from diverse parts of the country with much in common. They are producing finished, or at least heavy feeder lambs off grass, and lambing outside late enough in the spring that feed cost is almost eliminated. With this system in mind, they need sheep that are capable of doing the job on year round forage, with minimal management, lambing on grass. 
    All those operations rely on North Country Cheviots to provide their ewe flocks where they can depend on easy lambing trouble free low maintenance hardy sheep. They raise their own replacements, with long established flocks, well adapted to their environment. 
    These folks all seek rams with moderate frame, capacity, girth and bone - grass type sheep, typical of the "Scottish" style as opposed to the taller slimmer kind that may be easier to find, if not to raise.

    The old timers in Scotland always said that the three keys to success in the livestock business are good land, good stock and good people. This sounds obvious enough, yet often breeding operations are created at great expense, lacking those basic ingredients. 

    A suitable environment for sheep makes a huge difference. When we moved to the Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia from Maryland's Eastern Shore in 1973, the sheep we brought along must have thought they were finally in heaven - native bluegrass mountain limestone pasture, abundant shade, spring water and cool nights. I expected they would respond to the environmental upgrade, but never imagined it would be so dynamic. 

    Not only should the environment suit the sheep, but the sheep need to be appropriate for the planned program.Easy keeping prolific ewes, producing lambs that are genetically capable of finishing on grass at a desirable weight are a necessary ingredient. Not every sheep breed can measure up.

    It would appear that the days of three dollar a bushel corn are long gone, never to return. Ethanol production from corn, a monumentally stupid initiative in my opinion, has no doubt helped torpedo the livestock feeding industry, resulting in runaway grocery meat prices.
    Surely the only legitimate conclusion must be the development of low input meat products, and grass fed lamb should be a leading contender for consideration.

    North Country Cheviots would seem to be a breed with a resume tailored for grass based production, and based on current trends, should expect a bright future.
    Our Suffolk flock is maintained with a similar emphasis on function and production and we will always strive to tailor the sheep with commercial utility in mind.


                                   PLANNED PATTERN

       We started our Suffolk program with a plan in mind. Seeking sheep closer to the traditional Suffolk, with less height, more red meat, and stronger bone which is typical of the British type. 
        We used three stud rams with British genetics, and below are examples of their progeny.










  All of these sheep appear either in our SALES or SHEEP FOR SALE pages for 2015 and 2016.  All are pictured as lambs and have British genetics. We think the plan is coming together.  6 of these 7 rams were sold to average $830, going to NY (2) WV (2)TN and VA (2)


                    THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT

  One of the traits that most folks want to see when buying stock is length of body. I would suggest that body length may well be inversely correlated to feed efficiency and ease of keeping - in other words the longer the body, the more likely will they be harder doers, requiring a higher plane of nutrition to maintain adequate body condition.

Mother Nature, the real master breeder, designs animals for optimal function on forage. Typically her design could be described as average in length. When man gets involved, he wants to change much of that into his notion of what is ideal. Longer body translates into more meat. Right?
Yes, within reason, but as so often happens in the livestock world, extremes soon become the norm. Extension in length is usually accompanied by a similar extremity in height and lo and behold -FRAME SHEEP.

Another instance where I believe we may confuse form with function involves the "straight top".
Look at Mother Nature's top profile design. Most wild animals tend to be slightly higher at the shoulder, lower in the middle of the back, higher again at the hooks, and a slight droop from hooks to pins. I would suggest this is design based on function.
What function does the straight topline  serve?

It pleases the human eye.

I do not advocate selecting against a straight topline necessarily, but I will never discard a good one because of a more natural top profile. The rams  shown above are all pictured in natural fleece, and all show the more natural topline profile without blocking to make it straighter. Female animals with a slight droop from hooks to pins will always have less trouble giving birth since the pelvis is angled slightly downhill. This compared to the showring style tailhead, where the baby is going uphill in the birth canal at the critical time. In addition, post parturition discharge has gravity in it's favor.


We showed some sheep to support the 2013 National North Country Cheviot  Show in West Virginia, and were pleased with the participation of so many folks from far away, making the event a definite success.
    Showing is definitely not a priority for us and we must admit to some reservations concerning the practice.  
    Back in the old country where I (and North Country sheep) originated, the North Country show would be judged by a North Country breeder, the Suffolks by a Suffolk breeder and so on. Here, we have judges placing all the breeds, where often they may have little or no knowledge of breed type and standards of all the diverse sheep they are required to judge.  As a result we find a generic type of sheep that wins the shows, often much longer and taller than most breed type standards would indicate for many of the breeds. I suppose we in the North Country breed even have a divergence of opinion as to what the contemporary model should look like. The Scottish type sheep is medium framed, thick and capacious. No doubt, many of the sheep in the homeland are more compact and shorter legged than U.S sheepmen seek, but their breeders likely claim that they retain the foraging ability and hardiness of the "hill" sheep, and that excessive mature size and height compromises those traits.   
    The U.S. show sheep fraternity seek a different model, taller, longer and often somewhat slimmer. We hear talk of moderating frame size, but see little evidence of such in our show winners. 
    The new breeder has a dilemma trying to determine which direction to follow. As I often tell people, you can choose to breed the kind you like, or the kind you can sell - often they differ. Our philosophy is to maintain a flock with the breed type, function and constitution of the parent breed, without sacrificing performance. Our primary customer is the commercial shepherd, most of whom seek our genetics for grass based operations, especially given the drastic increase in feed cost. If the sheep we typically produce are unlikely to enjoy showring success, so be it. 
                                                         That's showbiz.


                                    HILL SHEEP

     North Country Cheviots are a Scottish breed of "hill" sheep. The term "hill" implies that the sheep are maintained on low fertility, typically poor grazing like peat bog or heather moor, with such inadequate pasture resulting in very low stocking rates. The term "hill" in this case has nothing necessarily to do with elevation, but rather refers to low fertility conditions, obviously requiring a special type of animal to survive or even thrive there. Low maintenance , hardy animals with survivability a valuable trait. Hill sheep are typically only fed hay when snow is deep, otherwise live all year on pasture, lambing late in the spring when the grass is well under way.
    I will always remember learning how that typically works. Back in 1964, before coming to America, I worked on a 4000 acre farm on the Isle of Mull, on the Atlantic coast in western Scotland. My boss was a fine man, a Gaelic speaking farmer, Calum Campbell.
   He ran 600 Scottish Blackface ewes, Scotland's most common hill breed. One winter day we were moving his replacement "gimmers"(yearling ewes) and crossing the ditch, a couple of them stumbled, and barely had the strength to get up, as lean as they were.
   "Do you think it would be a good idea to feed them a little grain, so they would be more able to make it?", I suggested diplomatically.
     "If I did that, they would all be standing at the gate in the morning waiting for feed. Wouldn't be hill sheep any more" was Calum's response.

    Calum would rather the weaklings died out, than populate his hill flock with such inadequacy.

          A lesson I have never forgotten.

  I suppose that is what "survival of the fittest" means.


     I had heard that Calum's youngest child, Jamie was now the farmer. A year or so ago, a Virginia friend was going to Scotland to visit the religious community of Iona, where it is believed that Saint Columba brought Christianity to Scotland long ago.
   The Iona ferry is only about a mile from the Campbell farm, so I suggested to our friend that she stop in at the farm and ask Jamie if he remembered the fellow that worked for his dad before leaving for America fifty years ago. I played soccer for hours with Jamie and his brother and sister any time I was free. He was about ten, and a good little player, though the youngest.
    After leaving Iona, our friend turned her car  up the farm lane, when of course her companions wanted to know where she could possibly be going.
     " Just for a few minutes," she assured them.
     Jamie was at home, and said he remembered me. Our friend took a picture of he and his wife at the farm house door, to show me on her return.

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