Our Livestock Collection
Bill Quay Farm boasts a fine collection of livestock breeds, but expect the unexpected! The wide array of coloured coats, patterned fleeces and unusual horns give our animals a striking look. The unique markings have resulted from livestock keepers’ preference for animals with a distinctive appearance. Our animal’s wild ancestors would have been dull and unspectacular to provide camouflage for their survival.
The ginger, long snouted, prick-eared Tamworth is active and enjoys life outdoors where its skin colour protects it from sunburn. An old rhyme goes, “As breeders there are no better mothers; few as good. They bring big farrows and suckle them well. For pork the race excel.” Despite such praise, the Tamworth is now one of the rarest breeds of pig in this country with less than 300 breeding females in the UK. Tamworths are Britain's only red-coloured native breed of pig.
They originated in the Midlands and have been nicknamed “Middle of England Hogs”. Until 200 years ago the domesticated version provided the nation's pork and bacon so it is described as a ‘dual purpose’ pig. The pure Tamworth lost favour with farmers when developments in breeding techniques led to crossing these native pigs with oriental ones to produce an animal which was quicker-maturing and more profitable. The Tamworth pork with its distinctive flavour and tooth breaking crackling is worth locating.
Large Black Pigs
Large Black Pigs are the only all black pig in the UK, they are lop eared and lovely! They are extremely docile and hardy and suited to simple outdoor systems. The sows are excellent mothers, with exceptional milking ability, and are able to rear sizeable litters on unsophisticated rations.The Large Black is also much appreciated for its tasty succulent meat and eating qualities- making some very delicious Bill Quay Bangers!
Hebridean sheep are directly descended from imported north European sheep, when more than 1000 years ago Viking settlers brought their sheep to the Western Isles and Highlands of Scotland. They can have 2 or 4 horns and have distinctive black fleece and toes. Before coloured dyes became available black wools would be used in patterned knitwear and is still popular today with weavers and knitters. Black toed feet grow more slowly and are more resistant to rot which made these primitive sheep preferable in early farming systems. Small, yet extremely hardy, Hebrideans are able to thrive on poor quality plant material that other breeds would struggle to digest. After shearing ours spend the Summer months among the heather on Gateshead’s Burdon Moor helping to restore it to a lowland heath habitat. They return to Bill Quay in the Autumn for ‘tupping’ to produce lambs in early Spring.
Castlemilk Moorit Sheep
During the early years of the twentieth century the late Sir Jock Buchanan-Jardine began a breeding programme on his Castlemilk Estate in Dumfriesshire. Using Manx Loghtan, moorit Shetland and wild Mouflon, he developed a breed to beautify his parkland and provide fine, kemp free moorit coloured wool. The Castlemilk Moorit is a very striking primitive breed, the whole appearance is graceful and well balanced; they are extremely agile and fleet footed.
The Jacob sheep takes its name from the story told in the Old Testament Book of Genesis of how Jacob became a selective breeder of pied sheep. The Jacob has magnificent horns and dark spots, they are the biggest breed we have on site!
With less than 100 breeding females the Bagot is a critically endangered animal. This ancient native is one of the oldest types of goat in the UK today. Richard II introduced the animals when returning from the Crusades in the 1380’s. The name is derived from the Bagot family who owned the earliest known herd which roamed wild in Bagot’s Park.
They are medium sized, with long hair and curving horns, and have a nervous character. The striking colour pattern which breeders aim for, is black from nose to shoulder, then white to the tail. Some animals have spots and patches of black on their hind-quarters and most have a small white blaze upon their face. Bagots are excellent conservation grazers. The name Gateshead is thought to have originated from the term ‘goats head’, derived from the headland where wild goats grazed. So the Bill Quay herd feel really at home.
Scots Grey Chickens
The Scots Grey is a very old breed, dating back to the 16th Century. It is now rare and bred mainly for exhibition purposes. Renowned for their hardiness, excellent foraging ability and capacity to thrive in cold and damp climatic conditions, means they are well-suited to life at Bill Quay. They are a small bird but lay surprisingly large eggs, with chicks growing well and maturing quickly.
The barring of the Scots Grey feathers is quite precise and results in a beautifully smart and crisp looking bird. The beak and legs are white with black mottles or streaks. The effect is completed by a single upright comb and red earlobes. Although the breast meat is not over generous on the Scots Grey, it is particularly full of flavour, with good texture and whiteness of skin.