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HomeFarming News‘The Hilltex is more appealing to the modern-day customer’ - butcher
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘The Hilltex is more appealing to the modern-day customer’ – butcher

The annual Hilltex and Texel-cross breeding sale, which has gone from strength to strength in recent years, will return to Aurivo Ballinrobe Mart this Friday, August 27th, 2021.

Farmers view the special sale as “one of the top in the country” for sourcing quality breeding stock – ewe hoggets and ewe lambs.

According to the North Connacht Texel Club, over 600 “top-quality” Hilltex and Texel-cross entries will come under the hammer at the sale.

A show will take place at 10 am with the sale to follow at 11 am.

Hilltex sale

The group said: “There will be a selection of Hilltex and Texel-cross breeding ewe hoggets and ewe lambs presented for the buyers.”

“Immediately after this sale, will be a sale of Texel rams. There will be super rams available from some of the top breeders in the country – many of them with Sheep Ireland stars.”

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What are Hiltex sheep?

Hiltex is the name given to the progeny of a Texel ram and a Blackface Mountain ewe.

Demand for the breed has increased in recent years as more farmers embrace their multidimensional values, with ewes and lambs much sought-after throughout Ireland and the UK.

According to research from Dr Ron Annette, hill farms can increase lamb output by 20% by using cross-bred hill ewes such as the Hilltex.

The research concluded that the Hilltex ewe “has the potential to improve the profit margins of hill sheep farming”.

Progeny are popular amongst hill farmers for their:

  • Dual-purpose nature;
  • Ease of management;
  • Capabilities as breeding females;
  • Hardiness;
  • High food conversion rates;
  • Worm resistance;
  • Conformation – excellent graders – capable of 50/60% kill-outs.

Hilltex ewes are renowned for traits including:

  • Ease of lambing;
  • Excellent maternal traits;
  • Hardiness – can survive in harsh conditions or mountainous terrain;
  • Ease of maintenance;
  • Inheriting ‘worm resistance’ from the Texel – stay ‘clean’ throughout the season;
  • Producing quality lambs that grade well;
  • Compact udders – easy to suckle and fewer issues;
  • Good teeth formation and sound feet;
  • Longevity – often functional at 7/8-years-old with lower levels of culling and mortality than other breeds;
  • High fertility.

According to the Irish Texel Sheep Society, Hilltex ewes can have a lamb rearing rate of close to 200% when managed correctly.

Hilltex sheep sale taking place in Aurivo Ballinrobe Mart on Friday, August 27th, 2021,

Ticking all boxes

One of the organisers of the forthcoming sale told That’s Farming:

“Hiltex sheep bring their good mothering abilities from the mountain ewe. On the other hand, the Texel ram adds shape (conformation) and a docile nature.”

“A Texel ram produces fast-growing lambs that yield more through better killing out percentages.”

“Furthermore, lambs stay lean even when butchered at higher weights and do not go over-fat. Also, they have a higher resistance to worms than other sheep breeds.”

“The benefits of crossing a Texel ram on those Hiltex ewes again is that you produce a three-quarter-bred Texel lamb. This gives the benefits of superior meat cuts, with extra added value, among other traits.”

Hilltex sheep sale taking place in Aurivo Ballinrobe Mart on Friday, August 27th, 2021,

A butcher’s perspective

Craft butcher, John Shannon, a member of the Craft Butchers of Ireland, has first-hand experience with the breed.

John, the proprietor of John Shannon Meats, Aiden Street, Kiltimagh, Co Mayo, told That’s Farming:

“The majority of the lambs I sell are Hilltex. I have selected the breed because they are good-quality stock, with a high yield of premium cuts, with a fine leg, rump and loin.”

“I have been selling Hilltex for about ten years. Taking on a new breed is always a risk for a butcher because you do not know how customers will react. However, adding Hiltex lamb to our product range has been a positive move.”

“I have tried lots of different breeds, and the Hilltex or anything to do with Texel produces quality carcasses and never disappoints. I source Hilltex lambs from local farmer suppliers, directly from their farms.”

“As a butcher, I look for carcasses that are 22kgs+. All Hilltex lambs grade Rs and Us; you would never get anything less than an R. The majority of them are Us, with fat classes of 2s and 3s and have kill-out rates of 50% upwards.”

“From a farmer’s perspective, they are not a difficult lamb to finish; they are easy to feed and are good converters of feed.”

“From my perspective, most customers, particularly housewives, are looking for lean meat. The Hilltex will not be over-fat, compared to some other sheep breeds. The Hilltex is more appealing to the modern-day customer.”

“The meat’s lean nature is a plus factor and will drive its popularity into the future. There is no waste with a Hilltex.”

“I sell Hiltex produce directly across the counter to customers and also to restaurants and hotels that we supply. I would recommend Hilltex to anyone – butchers and customers alike,” Shannon concluded.

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