Farmers use DNA genetic technology in mission to preserve Mayo-Connemara Blackface sheep
Farmers in Mayo and Connemara, armed with DNA testing kits and the latest in genetic technology, have embarked on a mission to protect a native breed of sheep that was in danger of being lost forever through crossbreeding.
The Mayo-Connemara Blackface sheep is a particular breed type that evolved and adapted over centuries to survive the harsh conditions on the mountains of Connemara and west Mayo.
Grazing on heathers and rough grasses, Mayo-Connemara Blackface ewes were renowned as superb mothers who often produce eight or nine crops of lambs in a lifetime.
Their lambs are known as hardy creatures, up and about within minutes of being born.
The lambs reared on the mountains are also known for the superior taste of their meat, flavoured from eating diverse vegetation.
This unique flavour has been recognised by Europe with the awarding of the PGI (protected geographical indicator) status to the Connemara Hill Lamb.
The breed's good mothering traits have also made the breed popular as a dam breed on lowland sheep farms.
However in recent years, there has been a growing trend of crossing the Mayo-Connemara Blackface sheep with other Blackface types such as the Scotch, Lanark, Swaledale, Perth and Kerry Hill breeds.