When a man who scans 50,000 ewes per year, clips 20,000 along with his twin brother John and dips 20,000 sheep per year throughout the country, decides to convert his own 320 ewe flock to Lleyns, people should sit up and take notice.
Dominic Black, who hails from sheep country in the Glens of Antrim and now farms 110 acres in Kilmurry, Castlerea, County Roscommon, should know a thing or two about sheep.
If he’s not scanning he’s dipping and if he’s not dipping he’s clipping, which leads to the question, who looks after his own 320 ewe flock? Anyone who’s as busy as Dominic needs his breeding ewes to be as self-sufficient as possible and to this end Dominic has been converting his ewe flock to the Lleyn breed over the past couple of years.
Replacements are sourced at the society’s sale in Roscommon but the long term plan is to run an A and B flock. The A flock, which will consist of his best breeding ewes, will be run pure Lleyn with the B flock consisting of the bottom half of the ewes being mated to a Texel. Replacement ewe lambs will be drawn from the A flock with the rest either being sold as stores or fattened for slaughter.
Lambing begins around March 25. Some 80 ewe lambs are also put to the ram for one cycle with any that scan empty being slaughtered for the Easter market – there’s no free dinners here. The 400 head flock scans around 1.8 and weans around 1.6 yearly, which isn’t bad going considering the effect the 80 ewe lambs will have on these figures.
Lambing takes place entirely outdoors with minimal intervention, conditions where the Lleyn ewe has really thrived. Dominic says his biggest problem at lambing time is keeping down the size of single lambs as Lleyn ewes put it all into the lamb.
Any spare lambs are fostered off or sold as pets to regular local guys so he can get clipping in early May before John joins him in late May to tackle the big jobs.
Dominic changes strategies de-pending on the market and isn’t afraid to off-load store lambs early if the market is good, leaving more grass for those retained.
He likes to finish as many as possible off grass and believes Lleyn lambs are under-appreciated in this respect. Lleyn lambs consistently meet the market spec, killing out between
19-22kgs without going over fat, but most importantly finishing of grass.
The Lleyn Sheep Society Show and Sale is on Saturday, September 14, at Ballymena Livestock Market. Show kindly sponsored by F Connon General Merchants.
Entry consists of 690 females, 33 rams, all eligible for direct export. Show 10am, sale noon.