Generating the competitive edge – key to profitable sheep production

Achieving that all important competitive edge is the core principle by which Co Tyrone sheep breeder Colin Barnes runs his business.

“And that’s as important for my customers as it is for me,” he said.

“The focus of our business is to supply high quality hybrid terminal sire rams produced from crosses involving Beltex, Charollais, Texel and Rouge bloodlines.

“We are bringing to the market high quality rams that will generate equally impressive meat producing lambs with the added fertility bonus that is delivered courtesy of the sires’ hybrid vigour.

“Demand for this type of breeding stock is growing at commercial level here in Northern Ireland. They are delivering better numbers of higher quality meat producing lambs. And this represents a win:win scenario for the flockowners involved.”

Colin farms at the Rock, near Dungannon in Co Tyrone. His Beechtree flock comprises a mix of Beltex, Charollias, Texel and Texel ewes.

“The total flock number extends to 200 ewes. We also keep a number of commercial crossbred ewes, a number of which are implanted with pedigree embryos each year.

“We keep Beltex and Charollais rams, which allows us to breed our own pedigree replacements, where each bred is concerned. Replacement Rouge and Texel ewes are bought in, as required.

This year’s lambing season got underway in January.

“The Beltex ewes are normally the first out of the traps when it comes to lambing,” Colin confirmed.

“But the main batch of ewes start laming at this time of the year.

Colin believes that giving lambs the best possible start is crucially important.

“It’s all about keeping lambs alive and ensuring that they thrive. It’s the extra lambs that are available for sale come the back end that make all the difference from a flock profitability point of view.

“In our case, it gives us that little bit of extra money that can then be invested in improved genetics across the flock as a whole.”

Colin ensures that all triplet lambs and those which had difficult births receive Provita colostrum.

“It’s a practice that we have followed for years,” he confirmed.

“And it is one that has delivered very positive results in terms of lamb survival rates.”

Provita’s Tommy Armstrong was a recent visitor to the Barnes’ farm. He confirmed that Colin will be trying two new Provita sheep products this spring – Jump Start and Ewe Two.

Jump Start is a nutritional supplement, specifically developed to provide newborn lambs with beneficial sources of immediately available and slow release energy.

“The product is high in energy, egg powder and minerals and vitamins to boost newborn lambs,” Tommy explained.

“It will help get them up and going quickly. Jump Start counteracts common nutritional deficiencies giving lambs the best possible start in life.

“It contains 14 different types of minerals and vitamins with very high levels of Vitamin E and Selenium. Two pumps, providing a 4 ml feed from the automatic dispenser will ensure that newborn lambs get the nutritional boost they need to get up and going and suck their mother quicker.”

Colin expressed his immediate interest in the new product.

“Double muscled lambs can require a Selenium/Vitamin E injection. It will be a major boost for ourselves if we can offer the newborns the minerals and vitamins they need orally,” he said.

Ewe Two is a fast-acting, high energy drench for sheep with suspected twin lamb and/or ewes needing extra minerals and vitamins.

“This is an extremely high spec drench with energy, mineral and vitamins available at very high levels,” Tommy Armstrong explained.

A 50ml drench is recommended after a difficult lambing or prior to birth in the case of ewes known to be prone to or have twin lamb condition.”