Norfolk shepherdess buys champion Berrichon ram with prize money from 2017 Chris Lewis Award
- Credit: Michelle Lakey
Norfolk's only breeder of Berrichon sheep has bought a champion ram to expand her flock's size and reputation – using money won in a competition for young farmers.
Michelle Lakey, from Briston, last month won the £5,000 prize for the 2017 Chris Lewis Award, presented to enterprising Norfolk livestock farmers aged 30 years or under.
In search of top-quality breeding animals, the 26-year-old travelled to Worcester for the Berrichon Sheep Society's Early Choice Show and Sale last Saturday, where she bought two ram lambs and two ewe lambs.
They included the overall champion, a ram lamb named Janos Sonic which cost 700 guineas (£735), and a 'cracking' ewe lamb from the same vendor in Wales, which cost her almost £1,000.
'I thought it was a good idea to buy the champion, as it gets my name out there,' said Miss Lakey. 'I liked him straight away. He has a very good bloodline, including 'Headlands One in a Million', which is a ram that has fathered a lot of great stock.
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'He is now in with my shearlings and hopefully he is going to produce some outstanding rams which we can sell. I will have 18 Berrichons to breed with this year.'
Having spent £2,300 of her prize money, the shepherdess is now planning to spend the remainder on handling equipment which would open up more options for contracting work.
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As well as being a self-employed shepherdess, she also has 120 commercial ewes and works with her father Chris Lakey on the family farm, where they lambed 1,000 breeding ewes in spring and will fatten 4,000-5,000 lambs.
'I will always have a job alongside the Berrichons,' she said. 'You'd need 1,000 ewes to be making a living, so this would be would be my second income, but it will overtake my commercial flock. That is my priority.'
Miss Lakey said she will be displaying the new additions to her flock at the Aylsham Show in August.
The Berrichon is a large white-faced sheep originating from the Cher region of France. Breeders have concentrated on producing well-fleshed sheep which can lamb easily and are active at birth, being quickly on to their feet and suckling. The Berrichon also has a tight skin and the wool is of a very high standard.