Featured Breed: Border Leicester
In partnership with the American Border Leicester Association, we are pleased to present Border Leicester as our 2022 Featured Breed. Learn about them in the Breed Display Barn (Barn 7-8 on the map). The Border Leicester is a dual purpose breed of sheep, producing both meat and wool. Border Leicester wool falls in long, shining locks that are popular with hand spinners. The Border Leicester also has a longer loin and leaner meat than many sheep of its size. The Border Leicester is a natural when it comes to direct marketing. Lean, tender lamb and premium fleece that tops the hand spinning market keeps customers coming back for more.
The Border Leicester has a regal, alert appearance. Its head and legs are free of wool, and its arched Roman nose and long, erect ears give the Border Leicester a stylish, distinctive look.
Border Leicester wool is long and lustrous with a spinning count from 40s to 50s (38-30 microns). The ideal fleece falls in well defined “pencil” locks with purled tips ending in a small curl, usually measures 6-10 inches after a year’s growth. Border Leicester wool is long enough that they can be sheared once a year or twice a year. The clean head and legs makes them an easy-to-shear breed. Ewes average 8-12 pounds of grease wool annually. And it’s not all grease! Border Leicester fleece often yields 70% wool after scouring, one of the highest of all.
Border Leicesters are hardy and well muscled. Ewes are prolific, excellent mothers and heavy milkers. They are also good foragers and get along on less feed than many other breeds. Border Leicester lambs are active and vigorous at birth. They grow rapidly for the first four months and continue to grow for several years. Border Leicester lambs fed for maximum gains often reach a trim 110 pounds by 4-1/2 months of age. Those who prefer to grow out lambs more slowly can shear 2-3 pounds of skirted handspinning wool.
Border Leicesters are generally calm and easy to handle, even though they are very aware of their surroundings. A pleasant surprise for many is the gentlemanly disposition of Border Leicester rams.
With their stylish heads and curly fleeces, Border Leicesters quickly catch the attention of the general public. Border Leicesters are typically shown with 3-5 months wool growth, so that the judge can accurately evaluate the fleece, one of the most important characteristics of the breed. They are relatively easy to fit for exhibition. They should appear clean and neat but are never shampooed, as this would remove the natural oil from the wool. A light spritzing with lukewarm water can emphasize the natural curl of the fleece, but it needs to be done well before the show so that the dampened locks have time to dry thoroughly. Stray locks may be trimmed, but Border Leicesters should not be combed, carded, or blocked, which would disturb the natural lock formation and detract from the character of the fleece.
American Border Leicester Association
The American Border Leicester Association (ABLA) was founded in 1973 to promote and register Border Leicester sheep in the United States and Canada. Any resident of the U.S. or Canada who owns or is interested in Border Leicesters may become a member of the American Border Leicester Association by application and payment of an annual membership fee.
Find more infomation about both the breed and the association at http://www.ablasheep.org.