Eurostar ratings add additional clarity to our ram purchasing decisions

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Getty Images
Tommy Boland

Tommy Boland

The last month at Lyons has focused on selecting lambs for slaughter and setting up for breeding for lambing in 2020. This year we tried a new rearing approach with some of our triplet lambs whereby they were weaned onto Redstart.

At this stage all the lambs that were weaned onto Redstart have been slaughtered, with an average kill out percentage of 49pc.

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At this stage the crop of Redstart is being grazed by other lambs from the main flock on the farm and performance is in the region on 250-275gr per day.

The only issue we encountered with this crop, this year was around having sufficient pre-grazing DM yield when the triplets were actually weaned.

As conditions for growth were not ideal following sward establishment back in spring, we had to delay weaning from our target of 10 weeks, back to 12 weeks for the triplet lambs.

Since then the crop has not looked back. However, as with any crop, it needs to receive enough fertiliser.

I have spent a lot of time (by my standards at least) in livestock marts over the past number of weeks sourcing breeding females and males for our ongoing research.

Rams purchased included Vendeen, Charollais and Texel. These rams were all purchased with terminal traits in mind and are all five star for the terminal index.

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Within the terminal index our major focus was on days to slaughter and lamb survivability.

In my opinion, there is no value in a ram with excellent days to slaughter, but a negative figure for lamb survivability.

The engagement of breeders with Sheep Ireland has been very positive.

For any sale we purchased rams at, you could examine the figures in advance of arriving at the mart.

No rams were bought on figures alone, as they had to be structurally sound and meet that intangible requirement of 'looking right' for what we wanted.

As we are sending all progeny of these rams for slaughter the replacement index did not come into our thinking, though many of the rams are five star for both.

When it came to purchasing female replacements, there was much less information available on the breeding index of the ewes, or more accurately, none whatsoever!


We were much more dependent on the information made available by the breed societies, or from previous history from the performance of animals purchased from certain farmers in the past.

Many of the ewe lambs and hoggets we purchased were from maternal breeds/crosses such as Mule, Belclare and Llyen, but for the first time in mant years we also purchased large numbers of Suffolk cross ewes.

One thing that struck me about the Suffolk cross ewes (though it was not unique to the Suffolk cross) was the sheer physical size of some of the animals.

There is no doubt that they are fantastic looking animals but I found myself wondering about the feed requirements to maintain these ewes versus the number of lambs they will produce.

I accept that these animals have a high culling value. However, it's hardly ideal to base your breeding strategy on the value of a ewe once she is finished producing lambs, as opposed to what the ewe will deliver during her productive lifetime.

We will mate our research flocks on October 14 with a view to a mean lambing date of March 9.

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