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Ian McCaughern

Beltex Pay Best on Ballymena Farm

We have been delighted with the easy lambing characteristics of the Beltex cross lambs

Ian and Elma McCaughern farm 180 acres in Rasharkin, just outside Ballymena, County Antrim. The farm is home to a beef finishing unit that runs alongside the commercial sheep flock.

The sheep enterprise consists of approximately 230 females put to rams each year, with the ewes mostly Mule X Texel types. This season will be the first when Beltex is used exclusively across the entire flock, a decision prompted by attractive returns for the progeny sold through local abattoir Doherty & Gray.

Ian explains his rationale for his decision. “There are three main factors that have a significant bearing on how I manage my sheep flock. The first of these are the number of lambs born and reared each year. We have been delighted with the easy lambing characteristics of the Beltex cross lamb since our first experiences in 2008. This is of particular note when lambing ewe lambs. The next plus point is the ability of the lamb to prosper on a grass only management system. We have found that they can excel and finish within the required weight range without the additional cost of concentrates. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Beltex sired lamb is achieving bonus payments when we market them through our local abattoir. The combination of these breed characteristics ensures that Beltex rams will continue to be used on the flock as they help increase overall profitability.”

The flock consists of 230 breeding females, which includes a number of ewe lambs purchased each back end for replacements. This allows Ian to select his desired female combination of Texel X Mule which is noted for its good mothering ability. “I prefer to buy in ewe lambs each year as I can focus on finishing lambs, and do not need to run a number of rams to breed my replacements. “ Ian states.

All lambing is done indoors for convenience from mid February onwards, with the ewes and lambs put out after a few days when bonded. Attention to grassland management ensures that there is quality grass available at all times.

2012 was the first year that the McCaughern duo entered the Dunbia carcase competition held in conjunction with the NI Beltex Sheep Breeders Club. “We were encouraged to enter the carcase competition, and were delighted to gain first and second placing” adds Ian.

2013 finished off with success for Ian at the Ballymena Winter Fatstock Show where he won Supreme Champion Lambs weighing in at 24.5kg.

With Beltex offering such a positive influence on this farm Ian confirms that they have a long term role to play. “The formula that we are using within our sheep enterprise is working well, and the Beltex ram has an important role to play in this success.”

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