Champion BFL in the Banner show and sale, held at Rhinebeck, NY. A natural colored ram lamb, shown by BLU member Cathie Cody Shiff, Wit’s End Farm, of Amissville, VA.
Tag: Bluefaced Leicester
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.
JoCo fair win!
Congratulations to Liongate Farm for their Best in Show white BFL fleece at the recent Josephine Co fair in Grants Pass, OR.
Deschutes County Fair
BFLs show at the Deschutes County Fair, Redmond Oregon. Correy McAtee, , Brin McAtee, and Rhiannon Curley.
Some photos from the BFL National Show
Breeders Young Flock – Pitchfork Ranch, Swartz Creek, MI
Best Fleece – Kieran VanHorsen, Albany, OR
Best Head – 4G Farms, Ellensburg, WA (also, Res CH Ram)
Champion ram (natural colored ram lamb) Pitchfork Ranch, MI
Champion Ewe (white ewe lamb) – Pitchfork Ranch, MI
BLU youth member Ellora Chapin with her champion BFL and first place ewe at the recent NEYSS
A special message from our national show chair, Karen Szewc:
I want to thank everyone that came out and supported the BFL national! Breeders, members, BFL lovers!
What a great weekend hanging out with the sheep people. A huge thanks to all who assisted this temporarily disabled knee person. (I REALLY could not have done this without you all (and those nifty pain pills lol) I think we made history with the most BFLs in one place at one time show wise. Black Sheep Gathering thanks us for supporting them!! Huge thanks to Shellie Ross for the video (of all my misbehaving sheep) all of you. Margaret VanCamp and I have something cooking for 2020 after a little research to get MORE of you involved. I learned so much this weekend. (mostly that I need to do more halter training) Working together we can put our breed on the map. A special thank you to Susan Mainland and Robina Koenig -I could not have gotten this together without the two of you! oh and Paul Genge for the awesome banner….Our judge was thorough and I really appreciated his individual input to each and every handler.
Here’s to 2020 make your plans to attend where ever it is~~
MS&W show results
Pitchfork Ranch had champion ram.
Choosing champion ram from the top of the classes.
Margaret VanCamp with Pitchfork Ranch’s champion ewe
Top ewes judged for champion placement.
Breed display at MS&W
The breed display at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. Our thanks to Blueland Farm (MD) for providing the ewe and lamb for the display. The new BFL feather flag is available for BLU members to use in displays at fairs and festivals in your area!
Invitation to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival this weekend
From long time BLU member, Nancy Starkey:
The 2018 Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival is this weekend, and here’s a photo of the yearling Bluefaced Leicester ewes that will be featured in the Working Sheepdog Demonstrations. The sheepdog demos are always well attended, and the crowds there will be able to see how lovely BFLs are when moving around the arena. So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Bluefaced Leicester Union of North America for once again helping to sponsor our demonstrations. We certainly appreciate the BLU’s support!