Watton Green farmer proud to export French breed back to France

Ram lamb Magnum

Ram lamb Magnum - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk farmer is proud to have achieved the agricultural equivalent of carrying coals to Newcastle.

Jonathan McInnes Skinner, 25, of Rokeles Hall, Watton Green, has kept French Bleu du Maine sheep since his grandmother presented him with his first half dozen at the age of three.

Now, after winning countless awards in the show ring up and down the country, the Norfolk 'Ernford' flock he keeps with his mother Sue has chalked up one its greatest accolades yet - recognition in the breed's country of origin.

Jonathan, who trades with his mother as Bures Farm Partners, said: 'To enhance the flock my mother and I visited the Paris Agricultural Show in February this year where we met the top French breeders and selected some new blood lines.

'As a result of the visit we established a good relationship with the French breeder Didier Foubert and his father who has been one of the top breeders for the last 50 years.

'They expressed a wish to import a ram lamb from the Ernford flock and selected Ernford Magnum, by Ernford Earl, a very successful stock ram, and out of a homebred ewe by Ernford Faberge.'

Jonathan, who won Farmer's Weekly's young farmer of the year award last year, said it was the first time that a Bleu du Maine sheep had been exported back to France.

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The Ernford Bleu du Maine flock is one of the largest in the UK and, until recently, was the only one in Norfolk.

The herd was formed in 1992 and made up of carefully selected females and the best sires that were available in the UK.

Jonathan, who has rapidly grown his business since starting out in farming while still at university, said: 'Bleu du Maine stock is in great demand by commercial breeders as crossbred ewes are highly sought after for their significant maternal traits to produce lean, quality lamb that the modern meat industry requires.'

Farming 1,000 acres in total, he also keeps cattle, commercial sheep and free-range Christmas turkeys alongside arable.