Sheep focus: Vendeéns become a ‘Landmark’ in Co. Cork

Taking pride of place as you drive up the avenue to the Nagle family’s farm near Mitchelstown, Co. Cork, is a prize-winning flock of Vendéen sheep.

It was back in the early 1990s when Ena and Winston Nagle got their first taste of sheep farming when they inherited a flock of 50 Texel-cross ewes.

After using Suffolk tups to mate the flock in the early years, Ena introduced a Vendéen ram and was more than pleased with the results.

Ena explained: “Initially, I was very happy with the performance of the Vendéen-sired lambs; they were producing U and R grade carcasses and the lambs could be carried to heavier carcass weights without becoming overly fat.”

After seeing what the Vendéen breed could produce as a sire of commercial progeny, Ena then opted to go down the pedigree route by purchasing five shearling ewes and two ram lambs from Cheryl O’Brien in 1998.

One of these rams, Quitrent Russell, went on to sire many All-Ireland Champions and his legacy still lives within the Landmark flock today.

Success

After embracing pedigree breeding, Ena was soon breeding high-quality stock on the family’s dairy farm in Co. Cork and started gaining success in the show ring, as well as the sales yard.

In 2004, she won the coveted Irish Vendéen Sheep Society Show Flock of the Year award; further accolades came in 2015 and 2017 when the Landmark Vendéen flock was awarded the Production Cup.

In addition, at last year’s Premier Sale, Ena experienced great success with a ram lamb who took home the Supreme Champion and the 5-Star Production Champion titles. Another ram of Ena’s was also crowned the Vendéen Reserve Champion at last week’s National Sheep Championships in Kilkenny.

Ena noted: “The flock has won numerous championships down through the years and it will be competitive in the Production Cup again this year.”

Along with this success, Ena’s dedication to the Vendéen breed was further acknowledged in 2014 when she was awarded with the Hall of Fame Award. She has also served as the society’s PRO for the past five years.

Breeding

As it stands, the Landmark flock consists of 25 breeding ewes, which are run alongside the family’s 240-cow Landmark pedigree Holstein herd.

Over recent times, the age structure of the ewes present within the flock has changed. Ena has moved out older ewes, thus reducing the flock’s age profile significantly.

Commenting on the ewes, she said: “I’ve a lot of young ewes at the minute and it will take them a while to grow into their own.”

However, a key part of the success of Ena’s enterprise comes down to her keen eye for good sheep and this has led her to introduce French-sired rams down through the years.

One such ram, Quitrent Russell, has left a lasting impact on the flock and a new addition – Quitrent Pablo – “looks to be very promising”. Ena also credited Cottage Jasper – bred by the Johnsons in Co. Meath – as being a major influencer on the flock, describing him as “a ram that left some very good stock”.

Ram sales

The Irish Vendeen Society permits its members to commence lambing their flocks in December and Ena sees this as an advantage when it comes to marketing rams.

“Lambing in December gives you a good, strong ram to sell by the time the society sales come around. Farmers who purchase December-born ram lambs know they are going to work immediately on their farms.

“I’m not a fan of stuffing rams with meal; if a ram gets over-fat, they won’t work for the purchaser.”

This year, Ena has earmarked 14 rams to sell; five of these are destined for the Premier Sale in Roscommon on July 18. Three of this quintet boast 5-star breeding indices, while the other two are 4-star.

Commenting on ram sales, Ena said: “They are tremendous sheep and I have no problems selling the rams. I could sell them from the yard if I wanted to. Last year, I secured an average price of €600 for my ram lambs.”

Apart from those retained as replacements, the remaining ewe lambs are sold to other pedigree breeders. At last year’s female sale in Roscommon Mart, Ena secured the top price for a ewe lamb at €360.

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