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Independent.ie

Sunday 4 December 2016

'There is always the risk you'll get a puck in the mouth, but not with this new breed'

Published 20/09/2011 | 05:00

A Wicklow sheep farmer believes he may have stumbled across a new breed that will be of serious interest to Irish farmers.

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There's not much that ICSA man Mervyn Sunderland hasn't seen during his 55 years in sheep farming.

His extensive farming operation finishes more than 5,000 lambs a year and is in the course of assembling, finishing and breeding enough sheep to fulfil his contracts.

Mr Sunderland thought he'd seen it all, but in the past 12 months he has created and monitored an entirely new breed created from a new cross on his farm near Jack White's Pub.

"I bought two Blue Texel rams from Paddy Kent in Wexford and paired them with Scotch Ewes just to see what would happen," said the ICSA man.

"I had never heard of these two breeds being paired together so we decided to give it a go. We weren't sure how it would turn out but we were very pleased with what we saw with the lambs and rams."

The big plus with the new cross in Mervyn's opinion is that the temperament and intelligence of the lambs was far superior to anything he had seen before. This gave the lambs a potent mix of being easy to deal with, excellent conformation, sound feet and extra resilience.

"We finish about 100 lambs a week and I thought I had seen every type of cross and breed," he said.

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"Other lambs that we had around the same time were stubborn and difficult to handle but this new breed were the complete opposite.

risk

"They were attentive and easy to handle especially when it came to tagging, when there is always the risk that you'll get a puck in the mouth but I never had worries about that with these ones.

"In addition to their conformation being up there with the best I had seen, I was really taken aback by how quick the lambs were up to look for sucking after being born. I lamb 1,000 ewes outdoors every year and I like to keep it as simple as possible.

"For this reason, its the survival of the fittest only, so when this breed proved they were able to handle that test, I was convinced that this is a breed for the future when people want sheep that require less handling."

Mr Sunderland claims that the store lambs were also of high quality, fattening as easily as a Suffolk or a Charolais.

But it wasn't just the lambs that appealed to him. The rams also showed promise with their resilience being highlighted as one of their strongest traits.

"The rams survived the harsh winter particularly well and looked stronger than the other breeds entering into the spring," said Mr Sunderland, who is already planning a similar crossbreeding programme for the coming season.

"They have the potential to be an excellent breed ewe, or mule type. I'm confident that they are up there with the best if not the best breed around."

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