Expanding enterprise: How this Sligo farmer has more than doubled his flock numbers in the last five years
Philip Higgins farms a mixed enterprise of suckler cows and sheep with his wife Amanda, their son Jonathan and two daughters Naomi and Hannah in the scenic area of Skreen, Co Sligo.
The sheep enterprise consists of 316 commercial ewes, 29 pedigree Texels and 115 ewe lambs put to the ram on the October 9, 2017. The flock size has steadily increased from 200 ewes in 2012 to a target of 500 females going to the ram in 2018.
The flock is made up of 20pc mules, the pedigree Texel flock and the remaining ewes are 50:50 Texel X mules and Suffolk X mules stocked at eight ewes per hectare.
Mature ewes are large at 90kgs and over. Suffolk, Texel and Charollais rams are used both as terminal sires and for breeding replacements.
This year Beltex rams were used to mate the ewe lambs. We will report on how this works out in future articles as it not a common practice on farms breeding from ewe lambs.
Philip usually buys mule replacement ewe lambs at the annual mule sale in Ballinrobe. The mature mule ewes are used to breed home bred replacements.
In 2017 Philip ran into a major problem with joint ill in young lambs which resulted in a mortality figure of nearly 10pc of lambs that were born alive.
"I put it down to the fact that the ewes were not in the correct body condition score at lambing and as a result did not have adequate quality colostrum," he says. "The plastic slats also became quite dirty around lambing time which in my opinion added to the problem.