Colour-coded raddling will track the rams' progress

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Tom Staunton

The Bluefaced Leicester ewes were AI'd and are due to lamb down the last few days of February.

We used a new ram that was purchased in Ballymena, in conjunction with Joe Scahill of the Faughburren Bluefaced Leicester flock.

The lamb is from M Wright and the Mullaghwee flock. He is by Parkgatestone G4 and won many shows last summer in Northern Ireland.

We are delighted with the new addition to the flock and we are hopeful that his bloodline and family history will breed through in our flocks. Apart from having good colour the lamb has great shape and conformation, good bone and tight coat.

He will also be used on Blackface ewes (Lanark type) to breed Mules for next year's Mayo Mule and Greyface sale.

We also A.I'd some Lanark type Blackface ewes to some top Scottish bloodlines.

We used the famous 90,000 Blackhouse ram who has bred some brilliant sheep over the past few years and is also from a flock with great tradition and good breeding ewes. We picked some of the best Blackface ewes in the flock for this job so we can pass on the bloodline down through the rest of the flock.

I managed to purchase some Scotch Blackface type hoggets at the Mayo Blackface sale in Ballinrobe to help boost numbers, these will join up with the rest of the flock for the busy mating period ahead.

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The bought in sheep got the same prep pre-mating as did the main flock, including, fluke and worm dosing, mineral and vitamin supplementation and their tails were clipped.

One of my aims for the breeding season is to disturb the ewes as little as possible by reducing the stress of gathering, dosing and other tasks.

By doing all these jobs pre-breeding, I hope to achieve this. All ewes were plunge dipped before joining the ram. I was lucky to get a dry day to do this job.

Once the rams are out they will first start with a yellow raddle mixed with oil painted onto their chests.

I prefer doing it this way than using a harness which runs the risk of discomfort and injury.

It also gives me the opportunity to give some additional feed to the rams, especially the Bluefaced Leicester ram lambs to help keep energy levels up during this time of the year.

I feed a mix of a ration with extra oats added in through it. I change the raddle colour every two weeks. Red and then blue will follow yellow with the raddle colours.

I feel it's important to keep an eye on rams to make sure they are tipping properly and also that ewe's are not repeating and coming in heat again.

I get all the rams fertility tested but this doesn't mean the ram is working properly. It does let you know if the ram is fertile and I recommend it to all before the ram is let out with ewes.

It prevents unfertile rams going to ewes and delaying lambing and if undetected no lambs at all!

We sold the cull ewes to the factory last week. I am delighted to be rid of these ewes as they were taking up valuable grass for ewes out with the rams. I hope to have another batch of wether lambs for sale soon.

These are now at grass with a high level of concentrates. I am considering sowing Typhon next year to finish the wether lambs. I have heard a few reports that it works very well and is much cheaper than feeding concentrates.

Storm Ophelia caused much damage throughout the country but fortunately we seemed to have escaped the worst of it. The weather over the past month has been difficult. The land is quite wet and it is not ideal for rams and ewes alike for the mating season. Let's hope an improvement comes for all.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

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