THE MESSING TEXEL STORY

Authors Michiel & Grace Messing

The texel breed of sheep originated on a small island of the north sea coast of The Netherlands. At the end of the 19th century these hardy white faced , short tailed marsh sheep were cross bred with some English breeds such as the Lincoln , Leicester , Wesley Dale and Hampshire Down. By 1908 some influential Texel breeders decided not to cross breed any more and look for improvements within their own sheep because the results of crossbreeding did not meet their expectations.

Since then numerous exportations have taken place , with the first in 1930 to Belgium. Now 75 years later they are exported worldwide. In the late 80`s there were some exportations into North America. The U.S meat and animal research center in Clay Center , Nebraska imported 20 bred ewes from Finland and Denmark in 1986.

In 1989 Michiel and Grace Messing of Alberta imported 28 head from England (the first private importation into North America)and in 1992 the late Tom Eggertson , also from Alberta imported 36 head from Denmark.

Western Texels:

We imported the Texel sheep into Canada after having had a commercial flock of crossbred sheep. After a while we realized we never could get close to the type of lamb carcasses we were used to in the Netherlands . We decided to try to import some Dutch Texel sheep. It became clear after talking to Ottawa that the chance to import Texels from Holland was zero but they let us know that was maybe possible to bring them in from England. We were set on importing Dutch Texels because of the quality we knew they had . We have seen Texel sheep in several European countries and were convinced ,at that time, that the most muscelled Texel is the Dutch Texel. We really wanted excellent carcasses and were not too concerned with prolifacy. After contacting the British Texel Association and asking them to supply us with a list of Texel breeders that were in the top with the (in England so very popular ) carcass competitions and breeders that were importing Dutch Texels or Dutch Texel semen , we ended up at the farm of Robin Slade. Robin had 300 pure bred Texels and about 6 different blood lines. Mr Slade was well known in Great Brittan for winning numerous carcass competitions. The Slades started with Texels in 1975 , when he imported Texel sheep from Holland into England. Mr Slade had since then imported every year top Dutch Texel rams to improve his flock. For us it made the whole importation a little simpler because we could buy all the sheep from one farm ( less risk of disease).We imported 23 ewes and 5 rams , all of them were 5 years old or older(one of the Canadian import rules) in September 1989. Some of the ewes and two of the rams were directly related to top performing bloodlines in Holland at that time. All animals were in quarantine for 2 weeks in England so the veterinarians could test for most of the sheep diseases. After being flown to Edmonton airport they went immediately into quarantine in the Nisku quarantine station which belongs to the federal government so the veterinarians could do the exact same test over again After a month at the quarantine station, we picked up our new possessions and our home place was now under quarantine.

The 5 year farm quarantine went in as soon as the first lamb was born in 1990. Our lambing percentage has varied from 120% to 160% since that time. Lambing problems are minimal, we needed a veterinarian during our first lambing . Afterwards we blamed it on our inexperience with the Texel breed and our anxiety knowing these were expensive lambs. During the five year quarantine period we shipped 75% of the ram lambs and a few of the ewe lambs to the butcher. They all had to go to the Canada West facility in Innisfail. For every shipment the government veterinarian would visit our farm and check all animals to be shipped . After filling out all kinds of documents they would let us ship them to Canada West.

Canada West was kind enough to do some retail cuttability test on some of the lambs . The result was that the carcasses produced upwards of 8% to 9% more meat than other lambs. The nice feature about the extra yield is that it is mostly in the leg and loin, which are the most expensive parts of the animal. We participated in the first Canadian wide lamb carcass competition in September 1992, After winning first and second place in the Alberta provincial competition we went on and won the Canadian grand champion.

To make sure we would not run into any inbreeding problems we imported in 1992 frozen semen of 8 different rams from the Netherlands. Due to this importation ,we were restricted in selling breeding stock to American buyers only if they entered the voluntary scrapy monitoring program . When the lambs out of these semen were 5 years old this restriction was lifted . From the late 90`s till the BSE outbreak most of our lambs were exported to Mexico. When The U.S.A. closed their borders our sales plummeted.

Our flock is a closed flock , no new sheep are introduced , we do not go to live sheep shows. If necessary we replace sold animals but do not take them back.

In the last few years we have introduced new bloodlines with the help of Ian Clark (Dutch Texel ram semen) and Steve Jones (British bloodlines). We had another first in North America , we think, last year a blue texel ram lamb was born out of to white registered animals . This, according to the internet, is very rare both parents have to be carrier of the recessive blue gene and than you have a chance that one out of four lambs is blue. If someone knows of another blue texel in Canada or the U.S.A. please let us know.

Michiel & Grace Messing 403-886-2808
Email: mikemessing@pentnet.net