Cumberland born Artist Robin Oliver is attempting to demonstrate how much effort goes into Farming today, as he sets out on a three year enquiry into what he calls, ‘the Art of Farming’, collaborating with those involved in the Industry, for example, Mr John W Davison, Farming in Northumberland, who has been making some very tough decisions recently.
If a picture paints a thousand words, then this picture of Mr Davison will resonate with many farming people around the globe, who love working with their animals, striving to improve stock lines, and present the best, of the best, of a particular breed, to as wide an audience as possible, and thus providing an appropriate role model from whom, many young farmers could learn.
It is as they say, in the genes, which probably explains why John’s Father and Grandfather worked with livestock before him. However, time has a habit of marching on, and in John’s case he has worked beyond his pensionable age, and at sixty eight years young, says he is ‘beginning to scale back’, after a lifetime of hard graft, dedication, good humour, and with what he described to Robin as, ‘a bit of a competitive nature’, when it comes to breeding, and showing sheep, driving him on to achieve the best, with his animals, which Mr Davison certainly has done, through his work with the very fine Langley Flock of Blue du Maine sheep.
Robin’s recent work with Mr Davison records and highlights, ‘a moment’ in Farming History, which is in the making, due to take place on Friday August the 16th 2019 at Cumbria’s famous Carlisle Auction Mart, which brings about the dispersal (ending) of the Davison’s very special Langley Flock.
The Bleu du Maine breed date from the 19th century and are an import from Western France, specifically from the Maine-et-Loire, Sarthe and Mayenne, regions, as a result of the crossing of Leicester Longwool, and Wensleydale sheep, which had been taken across to France from 1855 to 1880 with France’s (now extinct) Choletais breed.
During the visit Robin noted that Mr Davison presently has his sheep in two separate pens, the first of which contained this year’s Lambs, looking very fine indeed.
John Davison explained that his work with this particular breed of sheep began in 1990 when he bought three shearling gimmers, already in lamb, originating from ‘the Easterseat’ and ‘Dirnanean Flocks.’ Now and again buying more females, breeding them with a policy of retaining what he felt were the best lambs to enlarge his Langley Flock. Then came the Ram ‘Maunby Butch’ which John purchased at a Carlisle Auction sale in 2004, for the sum of two thousand guineas. The Ram was put to John’s ewes resulting in some very good stock. There were significant successes in shows across the country of Maunby Butch and his offspring. For example; three ‘Shortwool Interbreed Champions’, two ‘Royal Highland Show Champions’ and four at ‘the Royal Welsh Show.’
John said that the 2019 lambs are all by Maunby Butch as the result of Artificial Insemination(A.I.). Forward planning, as always, John had arranged for Butch’s semen to be collected when the Ram was a shearling. His latest offspring were weaned off the ewes on the 15th of May when his ewes and gimmers were bare clipped, and have not been exhibited at any shows this year.
Robin reports that when looking at the new Langley Flock lambs, he observed them to be incredibly frisky! And very well proportioned. John expects, that they will go on to win shows, should, any new purchaser engage in the art of showing their animals. And they will certainly add some class to any existing Flock.
Reading between the lines Robin felt quite strongly that this week, and particularly, Friday the 16th of August 2019, is going to be a difficult time for John, who is clearly devoted to, and extremely skilled at selecting, breeding, and raising, very high-quality animals at his Northumberland Farm. Robin sincerely hopes that John’s sheep command a good, well deserved, high price from any discerning individual(s) who wish to improve their Flock or begin a new one. As it is true that Farming is all about forward planning and succession. Robin asserts that his visit to John’s Blue du Maine flock, certainly, has been a high point for him, being able to observe and record what the artist believes to be Farming history in the making.
The Dispersal sale of the Langley Flock on behalf of JW & KM Davison, Lots 1860-1883 takes place on Friday the 16th of August 2019 at Harrison & Heatherington Farm stock Auctioneers, Borderway Mart, Carlisle, Cumbria CA1 2RS.
Robin learned that according to the rules for showing & selling of Blue du Maine Sheep; “A sale can only be described as a ‘dispersal sale’ where every registered sheep belonging to that flock is offered for sale. Further, the flock name will be thereafter terminated and cannot be resurrected by the present holder or used by any other member or future member. However, the Council retains the right to grant re-use of the flock name only on consideration of special circumstances. There will be no need for the sheep to be inspected and where applicable, the sheep will be sold at the end of the sale. This is in contrast, to ‘a reduction sale’, where all sheep presented for sale under such circumstances would have to be inspected by the Society. The sheep will be sold in the appropriate sale classes.”
Friday the 16th of August 2019 clearly is a significant date, in the Farming calendar and in relation to the history of the Davison Family.
To find out more about Robin Oliver’s Farming project please go to his website gallery at www.robinoliverartist.co.uk (Then please click on the Farming Focus header tab)