Hill lambing season to get underway within days

Hill ewes in North Co Mayo will start lambing within the next fortnight, according to Porturlin flock owner Tony Flannery.

“I have a 130-strong flock of purebred Mayo/Connemara blackface sheep,” he said.

“I will be taking them off the hill over the next day or so in readiness for lambing at the beginning of April. There is a lowland area close to the farm, which is used for this purpose. All the ewes are lambed outdoors as the animals are extremely hardy.

“I am a member of the Mayo/Connemara Blackface Sheep Development Group, which was established a couple of years ago to keep the breed pure. As a consequence I normally cross about one quarter of the flock to purebred Mayo tips. I am also committed to tagging and weighing purebred lambs in order to identify those animals with superior genetic merit.”

The remainder of the Flannery flock is crossed with Texel rams.

“This produces very high quality cross bred ewe lambs which are in high demand throughout the country. Texel-cross ram lambs are considerably larger than their purebred Mayo/Connemara counterparts.  I normally sell lambs at the back end directly from the farm or in local marts, including Ballina.”

Flannery is a part-time farmer, boosting his income as a bus driver in the local community.

“The farm is dedicated to sheep production. I would consider upping ewe numbers to some degree over the coming years. The viability of the business is driven by the size of the grants available.

“I am in the process of submitting a GLAS application. If everything goes according to plan, I should be eligible for the basic €5,000 payment plus the €2,000 top up.”

Teagasc drystock advisor Tom Kelly, based in Ballina, confirmed that hill flocks throughout North Mayo will start lambing over the next two to three weeks.

“I am aware that many lowland flockowners are reporting high lambing percentages this year,” he said.

“It’s unlikely this trend will be repeated on the hills where flockowners traditionally expect  each ewe to successfully rear one lamb only.”