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Friday 24 November 2017

Why this sheep farmer opted for an infusion of prize-winning Ulster genes

Some of the ram lambs that were on show at a South of Ireland Blueface Leicester Sale in Ballinrobe. Photo: Conor McKeown.
Some of the ram lambs that were on show at a South of Ireland Blueface Leicester Sale in Ballinrobe. Photo: Conor McKeown.
Pictured at the lauch of the initiative were: Paul O'Neill, President, Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce, Johnny Maguire, Killarney Meitheal, George Kelly, outgoing National President Men's Shed, Tim Cahillane, NPWS, Manager rhododendron eradication, Finbarr Kennelly, Haven Pharmacy, Killarney. Photo:Valerie O'Sullivan

Tom Staunton

The Bluefaced Leicester ewes have received AI and are due to lamb down the last few days of February.

We used a new ram - purchased in Ballymena in conjunction with Joe Scahill of the Faughburren Bluefaced Leicester flock. The lamb is from M Wright and the Mullaghwee flock. The lamb is by Parkgatestone G4 and won many shows last summer as a lamb 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 a 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 AI'd some Lanark type Blackface ewes to some top sottish 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. 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. I aim to achieve this by doing all these jobs pre-breeding.

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All ewes were plunge dipped before joining the ram. I felt lucky to get a day that was dry among all this wet weather to do this job.

Once the rams are out they will first start with a yellow raddle mixed with oil and painted onto their chests. I prefer doing it this way than using a harness. I am fearful of discomfort and injury with a harness. 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 infertile 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. Land is quite wet and it is not ideal for rams and ewes alike for the mating season. Let's hope an improvement comes soon.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo


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