Established in 1986, Beechtree Farm began with a small flock that consisted of various breeds. Over
time the flock became more defined and I became increasingly involved in showing and exhibiting sheep for both fleece and conformation.
My ultimate aspiration was to locate, obtain and breed Bluefaced Leicesters. With the help of Frank Baylis in Virginia, that became
a reality in May of 1995, when I established Michigan’s 1st purebred Bluefaced Leicester flock, which has now flourished in to one
of the countries largest.
Later more ewes were obtained from a group of imported Nova Scotia Bluefaces. All our foundation ewes
were related in some way to the first two importations of Bluefaced Leicesters into North America by Brian and Martha Nettleton, MRCVS
(a.k.a ‘Calum’ and 'Diedre') in the James Herriot’s ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ stories. The 1st Bluefaced Leicester importation came
in 1970 by boat and consisted of 3 ewes and 1 ram, along with Scottish Blackface and Clun Forest. The 2nd importation arrived
by air in September 1974, this time 10 ewes and 1 ram where selected from the 'OLD PARKS' flock of pedigreed Bluefaced Leicesters
located in Penrith in the United Kingdom.
In 1995 the breed was few in numbers and in desperate need of some new genetics if
it was to survive and flourish in North America. To that extent I became involved in a dialog with Elite Genetics, the USDA, and theUK's DEFRA that ultimately resulted in the first importation of Bluefaced Leicester semen from the UK. In 1997 with the help of George
Good at MSU and Elite Genetics, laparoscopic insemination resulted in the first, long over due genetic upgrade to the breed in this
country. The 1st Bluefaced Leicester UK genetic ‘F1’ offspring were born in March 1998. (*see Beechtrees Pinkerton) Since then, Beechtree
has only used UK sires via L.A.I. or their progeny for its breeding program.
A natural colored Bluefaced Leicester ram, ‘Morlea
EbonyBoy’, was also collected and exported to the USA, but the tank and straws failed to arrive in useable condition. I contacted
the UK owner of the ram, Jeff Leake, and made arrangements with him for the remaining straws at Edinburgh Genetics to be held for
Beechtree and for those straws to be imported on a tank coming into the USA. The EbonyBoy straws were utilized in 2001 with white
and natural colored offspring being produced. Since then the genetics of the original four UK imported rams have been widely used
across the country either directly with the use of the semen or via the F1 & F2 progeny.
By 2001 the time had come where
our now ‘improved’ flock needed to go to the next level on the road to genetic diversity. After a delay due to the UK’s Foot &
Mouth outbreak, my 1st trip to the UK was arranged. In August of 2002 I traveled to the UK in search of new Bluefaced Leicester rams
for collection. After a whirlwind tour of several UK farms and attending the Welshpool Progeny Show, I located several bloodlines
that had many desirable traits and excellent qualities to offer the USA flock.
In October of 2003 the new UK rams were sent in
for collection. After some delays due to health testing and collection protocols, the straws were finally loaded into a tank with
the new shipment of semen reaching the USA in December. Six days later we were busy with a crew of friends and clinic staff inseminating
a group of synchronized Bluefaced ewes. The resulting lambs are the most consistent group of lambs born thus far at Beechtree Farm.
Beechtree has also partnered with Trial & Error Acres to collect and import another Bluefaced Leicester ram, which has now been
used in our flocks with several of the progeny dispersed into other progressive flocks.
The year 2005 saw more collections
and imports, and a healthy group of UK progeny lambs born at Beechtree. A second trip to the UK was made, this time to visit
old friends and make new ones, to attend several fall ram sales, to research bloodlines for future collections, and to keep abreast
of current trends in the British sheep industry.
In order to better understand and promote the attributes of the Bluefaced Leicester,
we began a second flock ’Muleflock’ one that consists of UK bloodline Clun Forest and North Country Cheviot ewes to be bred to our
Bluefaced tups. This flock is designed to mimic the UK’s three tier system by producing the infamous commercial ewe, the Mule. The
Mules in turn are bred to a terminal ram, a British type Suffolk, for the production of grass finished carcass lambs to meet
growing market demands for a lean product. This also provides us with the necessary data on our ram genetics to make sound selections
for both the purebred and commercial producer.
As purebred breeder and now a crossbred breeder, we are encouraged by the
interest in the Bluefaced Leicester to be used both as a purebred sire and as a commercial crossing sire. To this end we are teaming
with other Breed Associations in the joint promotions of our respective breeds and how they can fit into different lamb marketing
We will continue in our efforts to produce the highest quality Bluefaced Leicester sheep, and to do our very
best to expand and actively promote this wonderful breed.