Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Beauty and the best for Richard

Sheep breeder reveals how focusing on quality and not quantity has been key to producing prized Charollais

Richard Allen with his All-Ireland Champion 2015.
Richard Allen with his All-Ireland Champion 2015.

Martin Ryan

With the showing se­a­son now taking off for 2016, sheep bre­eders like Richard Allen will be hoping their work over the past year will be rewarded in the judging rings.

The full-time electrician is concentrating on quality rather than quantity for the Charollais flock on the land at Dunlavin in west Wicklow as he follows in the footsteps of his grandfather and breeder John Allen.

For Richard, who loves the challenge of breeding and caring for the flock as a part-time producer, small is beautiful - and also proving successful for him.

"I started in 2003 - I had up to 30 breeding ewes at that time - but got out after a couple of years and did not get back in again until 2013. I built up the flock further in 2014," he explained.

"I am keeping the numbers small but I am going for quality and trying to produce the best that I can. My decision was to keep the numbers down and the quality up and, in that way, I would be able to do them better and more successfully," he added.

Last year, he saw the fruits of his best-laid breeding plan shinning brightly in the show rings at a number of the agricultural events during the summer months.

The cream of the season was showing the All-Ireland Champion Charollais Ewe added to by the very successful sale of the champion at the Premier Sale for €1,360.

"I had been planning for that for a couple of years. That was the aim when I went back into sheep. I was targeting to go for quality," he said.

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The same ewe had been setting a winning trail during the show season last year, collecting the reserve championship at Athlone Show, first prizewinner at Clonmel, champion at Tinahely Show, breed champion at Mullingar, and reserve interbreed champion of the show, and he showed a first prizewinner ram lamb at Tinahely.

The 2016 show season is already under way. He showed at Dundalk on Saturday last and is aiming to secure a qualifying place in the All Ireland when he exhibits at Gorey Show on Saturday next.

In his planning for the purchase of the foundation stock for his flock in 2013, he carefully selected the bloodlines that interested him.

"I went for ewes from the Logie Durno flock in Aberdeen in Scotland really for their hardiness because we need that in the country where I farm here in Wicklow. They would have to be hardy to do well in this area.

"I had been watching them for the last 10 years and had gone to sales over there and I was watching the ones that were coming out on top at the sales all of the time.

"They have to be hardy for them over there and I felt that they were also the best for my countryside.

"I am very happy with the purchase and they are sheep that have done exceptionally well for me. A lot of the sheep that I had bought before did not seem to do well for me. We lamb in January and like to put them out early so they have to be a hardy kind to thrive," he said.

He said the newborn lambs get up and on to feed very quickly.

"They are not the biggest lambs around but I find they weigh very well because they are long," said Richard.

He is also hoping there will be good demand for the ewes from the flock for breeding when the sales take place later in the year.

One of the targets will be the upcoming Premier Sale, which will take place at Tullow at the end of next month.

He is also a member of Sheep Ireland and will enter for their sale at Tullamore.

"I plan to keep the quality up and maybe keep the numbers down, because extra land is very hard to get in this area.

"There is strong competition from dairy farmers for any land available for renting," he said.

The cost factor has also to be taken into account with the general lease cost of around €250/ac/annum operating in the area.

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