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Monday 25 September 2017

It's transition time for this sheep farmer as focus switches from lambs to ewes

Jack Greaney (11), from Headford, Co Galway, with a ewe at the Tullamore Show. Pic Steve Humphreys

Tom Staunton

August is a transition month for the farm in terms of shifting focus from lambs to ewes.

Many changes happen in August and September. Lambs are being sold, there are ram and breeding ewe sales; as well as ewes being prepared for the upcoming breeding season.

It is an enjoyable time of year, with a bit of buzz around because of the shows and sales. This also means that it is a busy time, attending events such as Tullamore and Bonniconlon shows. This year we will attend the open evening on Wednesday, August 9 on the farm of Joe Scahill, Zurich sheep farmer of the year and also the chairman of the Mayo Mule and Greyface group.

This will be a great evening with Joe's farm and operation on display and also many breed societies showing the stock that will be for sale this coming season.

The Mayo Mule and Greyface Group, Bluefaced Leicester Society, Mayo Blackface and the West of Ireland Lanark breeders are some who I'm actively involved with that will be in attendance.

The West of Ireland Lanark breeders is a new group who will have their inaugural ram sale this September in Ballinrobe.

I have been breeding these sheep since 1996 and featured on the Farming Independent with some sheep I bought that time with Scottish bloodlines. The headline as far as I can remember was: 'Braveheart bloodlines for Mayo flock'. It's hard to believe it has been over 20 years ago.

I sold 50 forward store lambs when the trade was going good. It was great to get these lambs away straight off the ewe and without meal.

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I am undecided with the remainder of the wether lambs; to sell them as stores or finish them is the question. The Mule ewe lambs on the other hand are all destined for the Mayo Mule and Greyface sales in Ballinrobe, with the first sale on Friday August 25. I'm quite happy with the way the lambs have done this year.

These will get their final dose and will be dipped prior to the sale, which is only a few weeks away now. When the sales are over the focus be back on the breeding season.

The ewes are currently on a tighter supply of grass and will be flushed with quality grass before going to the ram. They will also get some mineral supplementation, along with being wormed and dipped.

The ewes might be dipped a little earlier as some cases of blowfly strike have occurred with the ewes. It happened on clean ewes with a little bit of wool cover once again.

The Bluefaced Leicester ewes on the other hand are a few weeks ahead of the Lanark Blackface flock as they lamb down about a fortnight earlier than the main flock. These ewes are currently on good quality grass, as are the rams that I will use this season. It is important to have the rams in good condition for breeding.

I like to do this in time and also to give them the once over to make sure, feet, body condition etc. are correct for the coming season. The rams got a mineral drench already and will also get drenched closer to breeding.

They will also get some meal from now on to help with body condition.

The cull ewes on the farm will be pulled from the main flock before dipping and will be given some better quality grass for a few weeks before selling. The main reasons these are culled are age, poor mothers, feet, prolapse, mastitis, barren ewes etc.

I feel it's important to weed out the underperforming ewes and the ewes causing trouble as these are costing money. The replacement ewes should improve the overall average flock performance.

Over time the flock should be getting healthier, more fertile and stonger.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo


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