BFL: It’s a meat sheep… that happens to have a fabulous fleece!
The Bluefaced Leicester’s original purpose was that of a “crossing breed” or “crossing sire breed.” It has been used in this way throughout the United Kingdom since the breed was developed.
The Bluefaced Leicester is regularly crossed with many of the native British breeds, particularly the Horned or Hill breeds (such as the Swaledale, Scottish Blackface, Welsh Mountain, Beulah, Clun Forest, and Cheviot) to produce the famous Mule ewe. The principle job of the Bluefaced Leicester ram is to impart a longer loin, improved fleece, milkiness, improved lambing rate, and other important traits to its Mule daughter.
The Mule ewe is then bred to a “terminal sire” to produce market lambs. The Mule now makes up more than 50% of the commercial ewe population in the UK. Almost the entire market lamb industry in the UK is based on this 3-tier breeding system:
Bluefaced Leicester ram x Hill breed ewe = Mule ewe
Mule ewe x Terminal sire = Market lambs
Terminal sires include such breeds as the (British type) Suffolk and Texel, the Beltex, Ile de France, and many others. The principle job of the terminal sire is to put the “meat” on the resulting market lambs. In this system, the prolific commercial Mule ewe produces lambs perfectly suited to a grass-fed approach.
Here in the US, breeders of Bluefaced Leicesters are also promoting their rams for this purpose.
For more information about the Scottish Blackface sheep, visit these sites:
For more information on the Mule and the “stratified 3-tier breeding system,” be sure to visit these sites: