Friday 30 September 2016

Sheep: Focus shifts to the show season and breeding

Published 17/08/2016 | 02:30

The Tullamore Show. Photo: Steve Humphreys
The Tullamore Show. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Shows and sales, along with ewe and ram preparation, are all hot topics on the farm for the month of August and September.

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I have gone through the ewes that I have kept for breeding and have separated the thinner ewes and they are getting preferential treatment. They will be given good quality grass for a longer period on the run up to going to the ram.

All ewes will be summer dipped in the coming days to help prevent fly strike and also to help keep skin and fleece condition healthy. This is also part of my programme of events for preparing ewes for breeding.

In addition, ewes will be dosed for mineral deficiencies and any worming carried out if necessary.

I find it is important to have these jobs done well in advance of breeding time as not to disturb either ewe or ram during the season.

Cull ewes will be sold this week and all focus can now be put into preparing ewes and rams for next year's crop of lambs. All the rams have gotten the once over. I find that it is important to do this earlier than the ewes as ram fertility and sperm production can be affected seven to eight weeks before mating.

Rams' hooves, legs and body condition were assessed and rams received a mineral dose, and they will all get some feeding of concentrates pre-tupping.

Rams need to be in good body condition pre-breeding as they will eat very little once with ewes and will lose body condition in a short period of time.

The pedigree bluefaced Leicester ewes are ahead of the blackface ewes in terms of preparation pre-breeding as they will lamb a fortnight before the main flock.

These ewes will be AI'd by ProStar Genetics and I will use some semen that is proven on our farm and also use some of the best new bloodlines that are currently on stream.

Shows and sales are taking up a lot of time at the moment. At the time of writing, preparation for Tullamore Show is well underway. At this stage, it's just the finishing touches that can be applied. I am looking forward to the event and meeting up with old friends.

After a successful local agricultural show in Tourmakeady, I'm sure many of our breeders of both bluefaced Leicesters and mules will travel, compete and display at Tullamore.

The Tourmakeady show saw a huge display of quality sheep across the breeds, with up to 40 sheep in some classes. It was great to see such a display after the effort in preparing for the event.

As the breeding sales kick off this month, our first sale will be the Mayo Mule and Greyface Sale in Ballinrobe on Friday, August 26. Breeding sales have gotten off to a good start with strong interest and good prices.

It is the start of the sales season for our farm and will be followed by a second sale of mules and pedigree bluefaced Leicesters in September, followed by the blackface sale and, for the first time, a third mule and greyface sale of lambs in early October.

It is a busy period with all of this year's crop coming to fruition. I will assess this week after the sale of cull ewes whether or not I will need to purchase any replacement stock, either rams or ewes. I have a good crop of hoggetts coming through and these should account for many of the cull ewes that are exiting the flock.

Store lamb prices in the marts are strong and it is expected that shipping of lambs will increase over the next few months due to a Muslim festival.

This should also have a positive impact on trade. Hopefully, the factory trade will improve on the back of this.

Tom Staunton is a sheep farmer from Tourmakeady, Co Mayo.

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