Top sheep farmer on last lap of breeding season preparations

Tom Staunton with his pen of lambs at the Mayo Mule & Greyface Group sale in Ballinrobe Photo: Conor McKeown
Tom Staunton with his pen of lambs at the Mayo Mule & Greyface Group sale in Ballinrobe Photo: Conor McKeown

Tom Staunton

We are well into preparation for the breeding season. We plunge dipped all the ewes on the farm last week. We always plunge dip as we find that the ewes have a healthier skin and are healthier in general for the winter afterwards.

The ewes got their first fluke dose of the season. I used a closantel-based product and I will change to a different active ingredient for the next fluke dose.

Ewes received minerals and before they go to the ram they will get a mineral bucket too. I have graded the ewes into several batches to suit the rams. I have them split into groups for both the Bluefaced Leicester rams and the Lanark Blackface rams.

I always try to get these jobs done before the ram goes out. I don't like moving the ewes or gathering them too much when the ram is out. I feel it's better to just keep an eye on them from a distance and not disturb them. I am planning to breed more replacement ewes for the farm. I have always done so, but the last few years I haven't bred enough replacements. I'm going to use the "No Mate" harness this year just to try it out.

I will let the rams through the ewes for a few days. I will then take them up and hopefully this will help tighten the lambing period.

The Bluefaced Leicester ewes are being prepared for AI and embryo transfer with ProStar genetics. Later on in the year we will also AI the top Lanark ewes in the flock.

We have found that by doing this that we have improved the flock by bringing in some new blood. I have used a couple of different rams this time. I used straws from a very successful flock in the UK that is breeding both top-class Bluefaced Leicesters and Mules.

We haven't embryo transferred any ewes for years. The last time we did we had some success but the time before that it didn't work too well for us. We have two ewes in the flock that are breeding very well and these are being used for it. The embryos will be transferred into Mule ewe hoggets that we bought at the Mayo Mule and Greyface sale.

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There are many protocols to follow and it's not always a successful process but we are hopeful. Mule ewes are often used as recipient ewes for embryo transfer as they have great mothering abilities and have a good frame and milking ability. In the UK, they are first choice for this specialised job.

I'd like to wish everyone who purchased sheep this year the very best for the breeding season. It has been a busy month for sales both buying and selling sheep. We purchased a few stock rams to bolster the team for this year.

The Bluefaced Leicester sale and Lanark Blackface rams sales went well this year with strong demand from Mule breeders for Bluefaced Leicester rams. The Lanark ram sale in its inaugural year was a good success with good demand for breeding ewes and rams.

The mart reported that rams from the sales went into every corner of the country with over 20 counties represented by the buyers. We plan to continue to improve the sales. The work and planning for that begins now for next year.

The Mule wether lambs are separated into a more forward group and store group.

The forward lambs are within a few weeks of slaughter and are getting 400g of a creep feed/head/day. The store lambs are on good quality grass and have been treated for both fluke and worms.

These will gradually enter the creep feeding group as lambs are slaughtered.

Hopefully prices will improve in the meantime.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

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