Bluefaced Leicester Union of North America (BLU) History

This article was originally published in The Shepherd Magazine. Kelly Ward is the founder of the Bluefaced Leicester Union, and started the breed registry. Here is a portion of her story:

Bluefaced Leicester Union of North America (BLU) History

Though breeders developed for as a maternal crossing sire in the UK, the Bluefaced Leicester enjoys multipurpose popularity in the US. The Bluefaced Leicester sheep had come from the UK into Canada in the 1970s, when animals could still travel between the UK and North America.. Frank Richardson, Nova Scotia, had a flock and he exported to Anne Priest, New York; also to Frank Baylis, Virginia, he sent four ewes and two rams in 1986. Frank Baylis displayed Bluefaced Leicester rams at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival 1990 and 1992.

In 1995 Mr. Baylis, had a Bluefaced Leicester ram in the wool breeds display in the building next to our pens at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Fellow traveller, Letty Klein, wanted me to see the ram. The idea of his whole flock being dispersed for sale was “interesting” to me but I was focused on Romneys at the time. On our way back from Maryland and headed home, we spent the first night in Breezewood, Pennsylvania. Before dawn the next morning I took the first driving shift. After changing drivers, I woke up from my first snooze, and announced I wanted to save these sheep. My son and I returned to Frank’s place a few days later and brought back 13 ewes, 4 rams and 8 lambs. Later, Kelly Ward and Lisa Rodenfels went to Nova Scotia to purchase the last of David Firth’s Canadian flock.
The initial group of breeders was small but enthusiasm for the breed quickly spread. The Fall 1999 issue of “Spin Off” featured a five page spread by Carol Huebscher Rhoades, and the cover entitled “Beautiful Bluefaced Leicester”. It reached a multitude of spinning enthusiasts. By 1998 there were had nine breeders, the next year there were 15. January 1999 I registered as a “doing business as (DBA)” in order to open a checking account in the name of the Bluefaced Leicester Union of North America, listing myself as “Secretary-Treasurer”. The next order of business was to create the registry. Breeders recognized the critical importance of tracking their limited bloodlines while maintaining the impartiality and integrity in the records. Kary Claghorn’s Association Sheep Registries was chosen.
US Bluefaced Leicester breeders struggled with the limited genetic pool available after stock importation was discontinued between North American and the UK. The breakthrough for the breed was the ability of the US sheep breeder to import frozen semen from the UK. Enter Martin Dally, DVM, UC Davis, to facilitate the importation, storage, implantation, and procedure to accomplish this. The Bluefaced Leicester now had firm footing in its future.
US breeders began to export to Canada. An important movement began in Canada to have the Bluefaced Leicester recognized by the Canadian Sheep Association. The registry had renewed importance. This was achieved and gave new meaning to the “Union of North America” that was only a hope at the onset.
The acronym for the Bluefaced Leicester Union of North America is BLU, a registered service mark with the US Patent & Trademark Office. By 2009 BLU became a non-profit organization with bylaws and these bylaws mandated an election of officers be held. An impartial election supervisor was selected to mail and tally the vote. The new officers took place January 1, 2010 in a seamless transition for the association.
It’s been a great personal journey to start the breed from an idea to a coast-to-coast population. Dedicated breeders who believed in these sheep, awed by an incredible fleece, a well-structured body with dams that held their bags high and clean, made it happen.Kelly (in blue) with her national champion ram, awarded at the first BFL national show during the festival in Rhinebeck NY. October 2007. With her (in white), is Kristen Barndt, the first BLU breed secretary. Looking on, in the far left corner, is Kelly’s longtime friend and fellow shepherd, Letty Kline. Letty is a well know sheep and fleece judge, Karakul breeder, and a long time supporter of the BLU.

Summary of January 19th 2017 board meeting

The BLU board met for its organizational meeting on January 19th at 7PM EST. Board members in attendance included newly elected member Kat Bierkens of Oregon. In the absence of President Margaret VanCamp, due to illness, VP Joan Chapin welcomed Kat to the board, and also recognized outgoing board member Bill O’Donnell for his time and service to BLU.

Set/Treas Lisa Rodenfels gave the treasurer’s report. The current balance is $9,401.16, with a net gain of $1332.46 for the year 2016. She provided the board with a detailed printout showing each entry for income and expense throughout the year.
In the secretary’s report, Lisa told the board that she is working on a postcard to remind members to pay their 2017 dues. It will also mention the site of the 2018 National Show, the new credit card payment option for registrations, and that we now have a new BFL chat group on Facebook. There are currently 98 paid members, up from 82 at the end of 2015.

Next were the committee reports
The chair for the 2018 National Show, Karen Szewc, told the board that she has confirmed that the Black Sheep Gathering will be thrilled to host our show. They have stated that we can have whatever classes we would like. Besides the usual, the board suggested adding best headed ram and ewe, and also having aged ram and aged ewe classes. A special class to feature our youth exhibitors was also discussed. Karen will work on that plan, and will be looking for BLU members who would like to sponsor special awards for some of the classes.

The Genetics Taskforce chair, Heather Landin reported on the likelihood of importing semen from the UK now due to the long quarantine requirements and repeated bloodtesting. A possible answer to this problem is the convince USDA to accept PRC testing semen for viruses, bacteria, etc., which is already an accepted practice in cattle. She asks that interested members continue to call to push USDA to consider this option.

Youth chair Joan Chapin provided the board with a draft copy of the questionnaire she would like to send out to our current youth members. The board felt it was a good idea, and the list of questions were comprehensive. Joan would like to use the project to showcase our youth, and get to know them better, while still protecting their privacy.

A life membership was awarded founding member Becky Utecht of MN.

A follow-up meeting has been scheduled for February 1st at 7PM EST.

2014 National BFL Show Proposals Wanted

The BLU National Show Committee is now taking proposals for the 2014 National Bluefaced Leicester Show venue. The deadline to make proposals is JANUARY 1, 2013. Here is the new proposal form. If you are interested, please fill it out and submit to Robina Koenig.

2014 Show Proposal Form

You will also find the proposal form under ABOUT BLU on the main navigational menu on our website. Click on NATIONAL SHOW INFO to find the PDF.

Please contact National Show Committee Chair Robina Koenig if you have any questions. You may use the Contact Form on the website; select Robina in the drop-down menu.

President’s notes on Board meeting held June 12, 2012

The board met by teleconference the evening of Tuesday, June 12th. Our new treasurer, Cindy Cieciwa, reported that a new checking account has been opened, and submitted a treasurer’s report for the period of January to May, 2012.
Secretary Kris Barndt presented the minutes from the previous meeting in February. She also reported on her progress with the 2010-11 Flockbook. There is still a bit of work to be done, but she plans to have both years ready to post on the website within a week. She is also working on updating the membership list on the website. There are a few new members, and some of the existing members need their “paid through” date updated.
National Show Chair Robina Koenig led a discussion of the recent national show with the board. A financial report has been submitted, showing a profit of $45.08 from the show. These funds will be set aside to be used toward the expenses of the 2014 show. There was a brief discussion of possible venues for the 2014 show. Show proposals will be due by the January 2013 board meeting, so the membership needs to be reminded to work on these proposals.
The Bylaws & Standards committee chair, Margaret VanCamp had been approached by several members concerning the need to clarify what show category BFLs fall into; medium wool or longwool. After reviewing the existing breed standards, as well as other publications provided by BLU, it was decided that the informational tri-fold flyer available for reprint on the website needs to have the wording from the standards added to the section on wool. In the mean time, members who show BFLs might want to have the breed standards in hand should this question come up at shows where BFLs are entered. The flyer will be corrected as soon as possible.
Jolene Vezzetti, membership chair, reported that she has gotten a list of new members from the secretary and will verify that welcome packets have been mailed to all. After a discussion, it was decided that the treasurer should report paid memberships with the treasurer’s report so that the board will be aware of members status.
The genetics taskforce reported on the progress in getting several new rams that have been collected into the US for our membership’s use. There is a problem with the company that does the collection work that is being looked into by USDA.
The upcoming election was discussed. A postcard reminding members of the schedule of election, as well as requesting resumes for the positions of president, and 3 board members should be mailed out by the end of the month. Annette Boose is willing to handle the mailing and counting of ballots again, and the board agreed that she should continue to do this.
The next scheduled meeting of the board is on August 8th.

National Show Skein and Fiber Art photos

A view of the vendor booth in the Great Lakes Fiber Show. The booth was available for all BLU members to sell their wares.





Some of the skeins entered in the competition at the national show.




In the foreground is the champion skein, a plyed laceweight 100% BFL yarn spun by Christina Kurk.

The champion fiber art, a sweater knitted by Christina Kurk

4th National Sheep Show Placings

Judge – Judy Moore, Eagle MI

Aged Ram – 3 shown

1)      Lelli

2)      Lelli

3)      Shiff


Yearling Ram – 9 shown

1)  Van Camp
2)  Densmore

3)  Crider

4)  Lelli

5)  Densmore


Ram Lamb – 10 shown

1)      Van Camp

2)      Van Camp

3)      Cieciwa

4)      Lelli

5)      Shiff


Pair of Ram Lambs

1)      Van Camp

2)      Shiff

3)      Lelli

4)      Davidson


Aged Ewe – 4 shown

1)      Shiff

2)      Shiff

3)      Lelli

4)      Lelli


Yearling Ewe – 12 shown

1)      Van Camp

2)      Shiff

3)      Van Camp

4)      Lelli

5)      Densmore


Ewe Lamb –  5 shown

1)      Van Camp

2)      Cieciwa

3)      Van Camp

4)      Cieciwa

5)      Shiff

Pair Ewe Lambs

1)      Van Camp

2)      Cieciwa


Pair of Ewes

1)      Van Camp

2)      Lelli

3)      Vezzetti, Sarah


Champion Ram – Lelli

            Reserve – Van Camp

Champion Ewe – Van Camp

            Reserve – Shiff

Breeders Flock – Van Camp

Best Headed – Lelli with a yearling ewe



2012 National Show Fleece Competition

The forms are available online now. Click on the “About BLU” dropdown box above, then on the “National Show Info”. You can download/print the  contest forms.  Please share these with all interested parties!  The Sheep Show forms will be available soon – just working out the “bugs” in the rules section.

Yarn, Fiber Arts and Photography contest forms

The forms are available online now. Click on the “About BLU” dropdown box above, then on the “National Show Info”. You can download/print the 3 contest forms. Please share these with all interested parties!