Farm Ireland

Sunday 22 April 2018

Breeding sales prep is year-long process

Sean Butler from Ballon had the best Cheviot Ewe Lambs at Tullow Sheep Breeders show and sale last week
Sean Butler from Ballon had the best Cheviot Ewe Lambs at Tullow Sheep Breeders show and sale last week

Tom Staunton

The breeding sales have quickly crept up on me over the last few weeks and it will be all go for the next month.

I am writing this article in anticipation of seeing what results the annual Mayo Mule and Greyface sale in Ballinrobe will bring myself and the group this year.

It is our biggest sale to date and I hope that with all the phone calls and interest that it will run smoothly for another year.

The specialised breeding sales around the country are attracting buyers and have started off on a positive note. These sales attract buyers because they know that the breed they want will be there on the day.

I am also in the process of helping to organise the Pedigree Bluefaced Leicester sale in Ballinrobe on Saturday, September 14.

Organising a sale is very time consuming with a lot of behind-the-scenes work done by our committee members and our office staff.

But it has to be done because it is important to have everything spot on and to improve year-on-year.

Apart from organising the sale, the sheep have to be prepped too. They are dipped and dosed for worms, and with a mineral drench and are made presentable for sale.

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One could say that this only started a few weeks or a few months ago, but realistically it started this time last year. Once I have sold all my Mule lambs, by mid-August I begin preparing my ewes for the ram. I believe this is when preparation for next year's crop of lambs begins.


This is the time when you decide which ram goes with each ewe and whether to dose the ewes pre-tupping with minerals. The ewes then have to be maintained and fed throughout pregnancy.

The lambs need to have thrived well to get to this stage. With so many variables there are always going to be ups and downs.

I think decision making is the key and I try to minimise the amount of problems that can occur before they do. As they say, 'prevention is better than a cure'.

I won't hold onto any ewes that have a tendency to be lame, old ewes and ewes that had problems rearing lambs this year.

The ewes have been checked for any incidence of mastitis and the cull ewes that are present on the farm are on good quality grass and will be sold once they have good flesh towards the end of September.

The Mountain Blackface ewes will be flushed on good quality leafy grass over the coming weeks.

I might buy in some good replacement Mountain Blackface ewe hoggets as I don't have enough replacements coming into the flock this year.

The Mule ewes and the Pedigree Bluefaced Leicester ewes are already on good quality grass. These ewes have been dosed with Liquithrive and the Bluefaced Leicester ewes have been vaccinated against Schmallenberg virus.

The Mule ewes will be put to a Beltex ram in the third week of September and will lamb down along with the Blue ewes towards the end of February and into early March.

This worked well this year as both types of ewes lambed around the same time, which allowed me to foster lambs onto single ewes.


The Bluefaced Leicester ewes will be inseminated towards the end of the month to top quality rams from some of the best bloodlines in the breed.

I will have embryo transfer carried out on one of the Bluefaced Leicester ewes by Ronan Gallagher who specialises in AI and embryo transfer in sheep.

This ewe will go through a detailed schedule over the coming weeks where everything needs to be spot on to be as successful as possible.

There is nothing guaranteed but it is a way of getting as many lambs as possible from the best ewes in a flock.

I'm busy, but I also enjoy this time of year. I meet friends that I have made over the years at these breeding sales and catch up on all that has happened since we last met.

Tom Staunton farms at Shanvallyard, Tourmakeady, Co Mayo Email:

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