The principal function of the breed is to naturally utilise the hill and mountain grazing of the British Isles to best advantage, producing store lambs which are suitable for short or long keep, finishing off grass, rape, turnips, or in-shed.
In today’s political climate, where farming for the environment is important, the Blackface is the ideal breed. Grazed extensively over large areas of heather hill and moorland it can be dual purpose; providing an income for the farmers and creating diverse swards which benefit many kinds of insects, plants and ground-nesting birds (NatureScot).
From better hill grazing, many lambs are sold prime direct off their mothers at carcase weights of 15-19 kgs. The majority of wedder lambs off the high hills are sold store and are the ideal lamb to go to lowground farms for finishing. Blackface lamb is naturally reared, symbolising the purity and goodness of the land and has a reputation for its unrivalled sweet flavour and tenderness. Available from September onwards, it is without doubt ' naturally good ' and popular with many of Britain’s top chefs.
Of equal importance, the Blackface is at the summit of the pyramid of stratification of the British sheep industry. The hills produce a reservoir of females, which are drafted to marginal or upland farms either as ewe lambs or five or six year old ewes, where they are crossed with a Bluefaced Leicester to produce the ever popular Scotch Mule or North of England Mule ewe.
This in turn is crossed with a terminal sire such as a Texel to produce a top quality prime lamb. Indeed, many mixed farms continue with this tried and tested model of stratification successfully.
The NSA reported in its 2021 paper, The Complimentary Role of Hill Farming, “A properly functioning stratified sheep business is an integral part of the future UK farming business as it will be a source of many intrinsic benefits.”
The blackface ewe herself crossed with a terminal sire on better quality grazing, produces a quality prime lamb, or a store lamb for finishing.