Ballymena mart will host this year’s event where visitors will have the opportunity to tour Cafre’s hill farm at Glenwherry.
Sheep NI 2015 is to be held at Ballymena market on Monday, July 6, featuring stock judging, the Young Shepherd of the Year competition, a range of seminars on topical issues and a sheep dogs sale, plus a host of breed society and trade stands.
One of the highlights of the day, however, will undoubtedly be the opportunity to go on a tour of the Northern Ireland College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (Cafre) hill farm, Glenwherry, located midway between Ballymena and Larne.
It is one of the college’s three farms. The others being a dairy development centre, which is part of a 170-hectare (420-acre) mixed lowland farm with 180 dairy cows and followers, 200 ewes and 30ha (74 acres) of arable crops and potatoes; and the third is a 130ha (320-acre) beef and sheep development centre which has 50 suckler cows and 200 finishing cattle.
As well as providing a valueable learning resource for students, the three centres are also used by technologists and advisers to demonstrate and promote adaptation of the latest advances in the industry.
Cafre’s hill farm at Glenwherry extends to 958ha (2,370 acres) of improved grassland, upland parks and heather moorland. With only 5 per cent of the land area as improved grassland, the farm is mainly operated as a stock-rearing farm with calves from the suckler herd transferred at weaning and lambs transferred or sold as stores.
The farm has the capacity to run 1,100 breeding ewes producing ewe lamb replacements, stores and slaughter lambs. A maximum of 600 Blackface ewes are kept to manage the heather moorland with about 500 cross-bred ewes grazed on upland parks.
The stratified sheep breeding programme consists of a hill flock of pure Blackface ewes and an upland flock of Texel/Blackface crossbred ewes.
The 240 Blackface ewes are bred pure to Signet performance recorded rams selected which must be true to breed type and have an above average overall index. All progeny are performance recorded.
A further 80 Blackface ewes mated to Swaledale rams make up the hill flock females. Ewe lambs selected from these are introduced as replacements to the upland flock.
The upland flock consists of 730 ewes with 230 either Blackface or Blackface cross Swaledale put to Texel rams to produce a hardy cross-bred ewe. The long-term aim is all of these ewes will be Blackface cross Swaledales. Texel rams are also selected on performance figures with particular emphasis on milk yield and litter size traits.
The remaining 500 cross-bred ewes use the upland parks on the farm and produce predominantly slaughter lambs to be sold as either stores or finished. Easier lambing terminal sires are used to reduce lambing assistance. Currently 350 ewes are bred to Primera rams with the reminder bred to Lleyn rams to produce replacements for the Greenmount Lowland flock at the Abbey Farm, Greenmount Campus.
All ewes in the upland flock are condition scored and housed in early January, being fed only silage up to six weeks prior to lambing when concentrates are introduced. Concentrate feed levels are based on the condition of the ewes, scanning results and forage analysis.
All are lambed indoors and turned out initially onto in-bye land.
The hill flock ewes are out-wintered and supplemented with feed blocks and concentrates which are introduced six weeks prior to lambing. Ewes are lambed outdoors. In extreme weather conditions, silage is fed.
Where: Ballymena Livestock Market Woodside Road, Ballymena, BT42 4HX
When: Monday July 6, 2015
Opening time: 9am to 5.30pm
Admission: Adults, £5. NSA Members, FREE on production of current membership card
Parking and programmes are free. No dogs allowed.
SHEEP NI 2015 is to be held at Ballymena market on Monday, July 6, where attractions including stock judging, the Young Shepherd of the Year competition, a range of seminars on topical issues and a sheep dogs sale as well as breed society and trade stands.