Friday 30 September 2016

This year's crop of lambs was probably the most even yet

Tom Staunton

Published 02/09/2015 | 02:30

Tom Staunton with his pen of lambs at the Mayo Mule & Greyface Group sale in Ballinrobe last Friday. Photo: Conor McKeown
Tom Staunton with his pen of lambs at the Mayo Mule & Greyface Group sale in Ballinrobe last Friday. Photo: Conor McKeown

Buyers from all over the country travelled to the Mayo Mule and Greyface group sale that took place last Friday in Ballinrobe, with a full clearance on the day.

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Trade was strong with a few exceptional pens of hoggets and prize winners making €248.

With buyers commenting on the quality and strength of lambs on offer, a few top lots made from €160 to €196 and prize winners making €206. My sheep made an average price of €174, up €18 on last year.

It could be said that these lambs have been prepared since last March when they were born but I think the process starts in September of the previous year. Preparing ewes and rams is now on the agenda for next season.

I am very happy with the crop of lambs this year. It is probably the most even crop of lambs I have had for sale to date. Despite difficult weather conditions at times this year, grass growth and lamb growth was quite good overall. All the lambs that I offered for sale in Ballinrobe are all capable of breeding in their first year.

This is something that some customers are looking for and I have been providing for this niche in the market for many years now. Many who breed these ewe lambs scan up to 1.5 lambs/ewe lamb. This then leaves the farmer with a young, experienced and cheaper ewe hogget.

Preparation for next year's crop has begun already. Blackface ewes have been graded into groups depending on body condition score (BCS) and are on different quality fields of grass because of this. There is more room now since the lambs have been sold and ewes will get preferential treatment from now on.

I went through all the ewes to make sure I didn't miss any ewes with mastitis or ewes that didn't perform to requirements. I have also selected the ewes that I will run with the Lanark type Blackface rams this season.

The plan for breeding my own replacements is coming along nicely. I have nearly enough ewe hoggets to come into the main flock this season and have more than enough Blackface ewe lambs. The age profile of the flock will reduce over the next few years with this system also.

The Pedigree Bluefaced Leicester ewes have been dosed with a mineral and vitamin drench and are on good quality grass at the moment as they await AI at the end of September.

This will be carried out by Ronan Gallagher of ProStar Genetics. Some of these ewes will be served to fresh semen and the remainder to frozen semen. The frozen semen that will be used is from a new line of breeding that I am using for the first time.

The breed lines are proven and have produced many champion sheep at shows and sales all over the UK. I had to change as I have used many of the same bloodline rams for the past two years and I now have ewes that are directly related to these rams.

The Bluefaced Leicester ram sale takes place in Ballinrobe on September 26. Preparation is already well underway for this. There will be around 100 rams on offer including shearlings, ram lambs and there will also be some females at the sale.

The Bluefaced Leicester is becoming increasingly popular on the back of the Mule becoming more popular. Farmers are striving for more prolific and milky ewes as much of the research suggests that more lambs per ewe drives profit.

The lambs that were grazing on the rape and reseeded ground have thrived quite well. The rape is now eaten and I have sold some lambs off this. There are also some more lambs soon ready for slaughter.

The remainder will be moved to the other reseeded field where there is fresh quality grass. I had no signs of any of the ill effects that I wrote about in the last article that brassica forage crops such as rape could cause. The precaution was worthwhile.

The sheds are being cleaned out at the minute I like to have this job finished before the breeding season begins.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

tstaunton@ independent.ie

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