Prize-winning ram lamb hot on heels of Late Late Show star

A Cavan father and son enjoyed success at the Irish Charollais Sheep Society Show and Sale at Cootehill, Co. Cavan, with a Charollais lamb that won the ram lamb class, going on to win overall champion sheep of the show.

He was the standout star in the show which featured 37 sheep. In the sale, he achieved the highest price of €730.

“He was a true example of the type of sheep we are focusing on trying to breed for the commercial farmer in terms of: easy fleshing; good conformation; long clean body; tight-skinned; and very correct throughout,” said David Argue.

Argue is currently on a full-time contract with Teagasc, leaving his dad, also David, at the helm during the week on the home farm at Drung, Co. Cavan, and the main block of land at Tullyvin in Cavan. The father and son farm in partnership.

He was born in January out of a home-bred ewe that is breeding very well this past few years and out of an AI sire that we imported semen off from Scotland.

So is this the ram to rival the Late Late Show star? “I wish,” laughed Argue. “There is a brave difference in the prices of the two sheep. I wouldn’t mind getting that lucky.”

However, the Argues are doing something right. They attended some local shows this year, with recent successes including overall champion with their pair of breeding ewes at Arva Agricultural Show, and first prize for a pair of Charollais ewe lambs. They also took the award for overall champion in Tydavnet Agriculture Show with their home-bred shearling ram, and first prize with their ewe lamb.

Their flock includes 100 commercial Belclare X Texel ewes, all crossed back to their home-bred Charollais rams. They have 35 pedigree Charollais ewes, purchases from the Republic, with some imported from Northern Ireland and Scotland. They import ram semen from top flocks and use quite a bit of AI. “Breeding this year was to a lamb we imported from Scotland and a lamb we bought in Northern Ireland.”

The Argues have approximately 140 cattle. There are 45 suckler cows and their calves, bringing all to beef. They are all Charolais X Limousine X Simmental cows with two Charolais stock bulls. Recently they bought two pedigree Charolais cows to start breeding pedigree cattle.

The farm has a focus on grassland management, and runs a paddock system. The father and son do a grass walk every week to manage grass properly.

“This greatly allows us to improve our stocking rate and boosts output from the farm. Cows calve in roughly 12 weeks, starting in late January. Commercial ewes start lambing in the last days of February, and are usually finished by early April,” said Argue.

Entering a farm partnership gave the father and son the opportunity to make farm management decisions and run the farm together. “Weekends can get a bit hectic trying to get work done, especially in the spring time at calving and lambing.

I am very lucky to have my father around during the week when I am not there, but I do have to make up for it at the weekends when I am home.

When he finished college, he went to work for Donal Callery as a stockman in Skidoo Stud in Ballyboughal, north Dublin. “I gained excellent experience in many aspects of farming including breeding, feeding, health and grassland management. I then decided to continue my education in agriculture, and studied a Master’s Degree in Animal Health and Welfare in Queen’s University Belfast.

“From gathering the experience in Skidoo, along with my experience from working at home alongside my father, and my education from Ballyhaise Agricultural  College for four years, I went on to manage the world-renowned 960ac Blelack Pedigree Farm in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, which had 740 cattle.”

He moved back home last September to take up the position as education officer with Teagasc in Mayo, where he is currently teaching young farmers their Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Agriculture. The relocation has allowed him to focus more on the running of the home farm.

“The farm would not run as smoothly if Dad was not there, and only for him being at home I would not have got to go to Scotland. Hopefully the next couple of years won’t be as tough on the farm as I will be moving back home. I recently accepted a contract in Ballyhaise Agricultural College as an education officer.”

Father and son have lots of plans for the future.

We would like to implement a programme for flushing and embryo work with some of our better pedigree Charollais ewes, with the aim of continuing to breed quality commercial farmers’ rams.

“We want to increase pedigree sheep numbers,” Argue explained.

“Also on the agenda is: building a new slatted house for the suckler cows; trying to increase suckler cow numbers; and reseeding a small percentage of land annually to increase grass growth, quality and stocking rate.”

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