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Rare sheep breeds among 12 societies on show


Texel will be just one of the sheep societies with a presence at the Ploughing Championships

Texel will be just one of the sheep societies with a presence at the Ploughing Championships

Texel will be just one of the sheep societies with a presence at the Ploughing Championships

The number of sheep societies exhibiting in the livestock section has been increasing each year and at the 2014 Championships there will be at least 12 sheep breed societies on the ground.

All of the popular breeds will be exhibiting emphasising their merits, including the Suffolks, the Texels, and Cheviots.

The Border Leicester Sheep Society, Vendeen Sheep Breeders So ciety and the Jacob Sheep Breeders Society will also have a strong presence at the event.

In addition there are a number of breeds - which are lesser known to sheep farmers and either rare or relatively new to this country - that will have a presence in the arena this year.

For example, the Zwartbles Sheep Society stand in the livestock section will have an introduction to the breed, the name of which means black with a white blaze. The South of Ireland Zwartbles Sheep Club was formed in 2010.

Zwartbles sheep come from an area of Holland called Friesland and their main use was for milk and cheese production. Dutch dairying practice changed drastically in the last century, causing their numbers to nearly disappear. By the mid-1970s they were entered into the Dutch Rare Breed Survival Trust. But since 1985 numbers have steadily increased again, especially since they were introduced into Britain. They first arrived on this island in 2000, when some were imported into Northern Ireland. However, it wasn't until 2005 that the first of the breed ventured south of the Border.

The Charmoise Sheep Society will exhibit a domesticated breed of sheep which originated in France and are currently incorporated into a prolificacy study initiated by Teagasc at Athenry last November involving a total of 284 ewe lambs of four different ewe genotypes. A Charmoise-Scottish Blackface cross is being evaluated as part of this study.

Depending on the outcome of that study, the Charmoise may have a place on Irish sheep farms in the future.

Although in Ireland since 1986, the only registered pedigree flock of Île De France in Ireland are to be found on the farm of well-known sheep farmer William Hutchinson at Kells, Co Kilkenny.

In 1986 he bought the first Île De France ram to use on replacement ewe lambs for easier lambing and improved hardiness, with the lambs said to be on their feet and suckling within minutes of being born.

Mr Hutchinson has found customers very keen on this new breed of lamb due to the excellent carcass quality and high kill-out percentage of the Île De France when it is crossed with Suffolk.

In trials carried out in 2000 by Teagasc, the Île De France ewe lambs showed extremely low faecal egg counts.

This has encouraged some organic lamb producers to make repeat purchases of rams from the flock.

The Kilkenny farmer believes that the Ile de France lambs are the easiest lambed and hardiest breed of any terminal sire breed and he will be hoping to convert more farmers to his way of thinking with examples of his stock at the Ploughing stand of the society.

The Beltex Sheep Society, Blueleicester Sheep Breeders Society and the Hampshire Down Sheep Society will also have exhibits in the Livestock Section.

Indo Farming