Contact Us


BFL X Icelandic Mules

We had our first mules born last spring (2009).  Their vigor was undeniable.   Birth weight was 7-9 lbs, but within a couple weeks they were closer to the BFL lambs in size than to their pure Icelandic lamb cousins.  Unfortunately, all the mule lambs were rams and we will have to hope this coming spring produces some mule ewes for us to work with.

The mule ram lambs grew like weeds on the same pasture based, feed supplemented diet that all the lambs got.  They were as big as or bigger than the BFL ram lambs at 4 months.  I butchered between 5 and 6 months.  the mule carcasses were so much fatter than either the BFL or Icelandic carcasses, that we plan to pasture them seperately with less feed next year to see what happens.


Why Mules?  What they say in the UK.

The hybrid vigour produced by crossing the contrasting pure breeds - the prolific, milky, lean fleshed and early maturing Bluefaced Leicester with the hardy hill ewe results in the Mule retaining the best qualities of both. The Mule ewe has an ability to produce and rear ample crops of lambs under any system including in-wintering. She will make the optimum use of food provided and will lamb with the minimum of attention to any breed of ram. Lamb crops from well bred Mule ewes average 175% - 200% and over 200% is not unusual in capable managed flocks. It is general practice to breed from the ewe lamb in its first year. Selectively bred for the specific purpose of becoming a top class mother of prime meat lambs, the Mule also produces a very useful and easily clipped fleece, good to handle and weighing well.

The Mule wether lamb, like its sister has outstanding commercial advantages. Ranging over high land under a great variety of environments produces quality lamb carcasses at acceptable weights that can be readily marketed over a long period (July- March). Noted for being an excellent finisher on grass, it has very good live weight gain and carcass realisation price.


Low Cost Mule Sheep Keep Fell Farms Viable
Article by Kelly Eve of The Cumberland News

LOWLAND farmers are being urged to support their fell farming colleagues and protect the Lake District environment by sticking with the North of England mule sheep.

Members of the Bluefaced Leicester Sheep Breeders' Association, including Eden flock owner Alan Bennett, believe that the fells have never been more dependent on the income generated from mules.

Hill farming has suffered increasing pressure from the government, which has switched its support to green issues rather than output, and from lowland farmers with some retaining half-bred lambs to use them as potential breeding females from their mule ewes.

Keepers of the fells: Alan Bennett farms 700 acres of fells with sons Kevin and Bruce

But Mr Bennett says feedback shows that reduced milking ability produces lambs almost 4kg lighter than prime lambs bred out of North of England mule ewes.

Mr Bennett said: "If Lake District fell farms had to rely simply on running pure-bred hill sheep, even with the green payments, our incomes would be hard hit and the landscape would suffer as a consequence.

"Fell farms haven't got enough lower land to switch solely to producing prime lambs; any alteration to traditional fell farming could remove more horned sheep off the fells and that would lead to a serious deterioration in the upland environment."

Mr Bennett farms with his sons Bruce and Kevin. They have 500 acres of fenced land and have access to 700 acres of fell at Hollins Farm, Dockray and Green Flatt, Soulby, near Pooley Bridge.

They have 1,100 Swaledale ewes and a small flock of Bluefaced Leicesters. Around 550 Swaledale ewes are  pure-bred with the remainder producing North of England mule lambs. About 450 North of England mule gimmer lambs are produced each year. Last year's best lambs reached £86 apiece to average £57.

The Bennetts remain hopeful that this autumn's sales will go ahead despite the movement restrictions imposed following the Surrey foot and mouth outbreak.

Mr Bennett said: "Green cash may have replaced the output-based support we used to receive but what these changes have brought about is an even closer link between the uplands and the lowlands.

"To ensure there's a continued supply of mule sheep  from the fells - to supply flocks with commercial ewes and to inject much-needed income back into hill farming and the environment it maintains - it's essential that lowland sheep producers continue to rely on North of England mules."

Half-bred lambs retained by some lowland farmers to use as potential breeding females can be cost saving.

But Mr Bennett says in reality many farmers have found these half-bred ewes by terminal sires to be less productive, more costly to keep and higher in their labour demand.

Mr Bennett said: "The magic of the North of England mule is that she gives a lot and takes a little.

"And in these times when labour is not only hard to come by but very costly, a lot of sheep that can be shepherded with less labour are going to leave more profit."

He added: "Grass is the cheapest thing any farmer can produce and the North of England mules will ensure you can get her lambs away at a time of year when they have hardly cost you anything. And they do that consistently."

On the fell land, Mr Bennett believes Swaledales are best when coping with the low-quality grazing that the landscape produces. He says if hill farmers were forced to switch to prime lamb production there would be fewer sheep on the fells to maintain them.

©2008 Cedar Fen Farm(TM) All Rights Reserved.