Whole flock recording improving ram quality

Keem Bay, Achill Island. Photo: Fáilte Ireland
Keem Bay, Achill Island. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

Brian and Catherine McNamara run a flock of 275 ewes in Achill, Co Mayo.

When it comes to choosing the right type of ewe to suit their system, their choices are very similar to that of Kevin Mulroe. Having as much size as possible in the ewe allows them to produce lambs capable of reaching the higher carcase weight and liveweight.

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Their sheep spend a longer proportion of the year on the hill, with twin-bearing ewes kept down from the hill from March onwards (after scanning) and the singles returning to the hill ground until closer to lambing in early April. The single-rearing ewes return to the hill in mid-summer and are followed by the twin-rearing ewes in July, with all sheep returning to the lowland for tipping in November.

Lambs are sold to Kildare Chilling through the Mayo Blackface Group from September to March, with as many as possible killed off grass in the autumn. Similar to Kevin, all of the McNamaras' lambs meet the French lamb specifications. Half of the lambs sold are pure Blackface lambs and the other half are Mules. Mule ewe lambs are sold for breeding and the strongest Blackface ewe lambs are kept as replacements.

Accurate dosing decisions

Brian and Catherine weigh lambs monthly, allowing them to send even bunches of lambs to the factory. They dose their lambs based on the results of faecal egg samples which allows them to make accurate dosing decisions based on the presence of worms and not based on the calendar.

Brian explains how the extremely mild conditions of the winter gone by resulted in increasing worm counts being found in the lambs right up until December, which would not have be expected. Without faecal egg sampling, there is a likelihood that lambs wouldn't have been dosed at this time and lamb thrive would have been affected. Both Mr Mulroe and the McNamaras source their Blackface breeding rams locally, with some of the rams coming from flock recording farms which are part of the Mayo Connemara Breed Recording Group which receives yearly sponsorship from Zurich Ireland.

This is a group of over 15 Mayo Blackface sheep breeders who use flock recording as a means of improving their flocks and ensuring that the Mayo Blackface genetics are kept separate from the influx of Lanark genetics which has increased in recent years.

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