NI Charollais Premier sale to be held at Dungannon Mart

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
The NI Charollais Premier sale will be held on Monday 31 July at Dungannon Mart.

There will be a large selection of top-quality rams available, which are suitable for commercial lamb production.

Judging will get underway at 9.30am, with the sale commencing at 12 noon.

Charollais rams on Suffolk cross ewes have worked well for Devon-based farmers Ed and Julie Williams.

The Williams' sheep. (Image courtesy of Williams family)The Williams' sheep. (Image courtesy of Williams family)
The Williams' sheep. (Image courtesy of Williams family)

Running a flock of 165 Suffolk cross ewes alongside 180 pure North Country Cheviot ewes, the couple have developed a self-contained breeding flock, with rams being the only stock now purchased.

“We breed about 80-90 of the Cheviots pure and then put the remainder to Bluefaced Leicester rams to breed our own Cheviot Mules, with these then put to Suffolk’s to produce the Suffolk cross replacement ewes we require,” Julie explained.

“It is these Suffolk cross ewes which are then put to Charollais rams to produce prime lambs which are sold early in the season through Exeter Livestock Market.”

A portion of the Suffolk cross ewes lamb in January, previously they synchronized ewes to achieve this but in the last couple of years they just put the tups in with the ewes for one cycle, aiming to start lambing in the first 10 days of January.

Julie Williams pictured with her flock. (Image courtesy of the Williams family)Julie Williams pictured with her flock. (Image courtesy of the Williams family)
Julie Williams pictured with her flock. (Image courtesy of the Williams family)

Julie continued: “January lambing suits us as it fits in around the other workload on the farm and allows us to sell lambs early in the year, helping to maximize income and providing cashflow.

“In 2021 we sold 170 lambs before the end of May at an average of £131 apiece. That sort of performance is down to the easy lambing, quick growth and fast finishing of the Charollais lambs which means we can get them away earlier at better money.”

Julie said the compact lambing period makes management easier and having lambs away quickly reduces grazing pressure on the farm through the summer months.

“We have plenty of other mouths to feed later in the year, so getting those early lambs sold as quickly as we can make a big difference to stocking rates.

“A quick, compact lambing also gives us good numbers of lambs to draw from, usually taking 40-45 lambs a week once we start selecting,” she added.

On the management side, the couple don’t feed ewes before lambing, offering twin-bearing ewes high energy buckets at grass ahead of housing for lambing.

“Triplet ewes are brought in 3-4 weeks before lambing starts, with liquid molasses fed for a fortnight before lambing and concentrate offered after lambing.

“The aim is to make the best silage we can, to reduce the reliance on bought-in feed and ensure ewes are in the best possible condition ahead of lambing and enhance milk production. We use a refractometer to check colostrum quality on a regular basis and it is always at the top of the scale.”

Once lambed, from three days old lambs are turned out as soon as the weather allows.

“We’re at 600-700ft above sea level and on the edge of Dartmoor, so the weather can be challenging through the early part of the year. We like lambs to be able to stand the weather before we turn them out. With the Charollais cross, once they’re up and going, they stand up to the challenging weather well.”

To keep lambs thriving throughout the season Julie undertakes faecal egg counts on a regular basis, doing these herself and verifying the results with the farm’s vet to decide on treatment strategy.

The ability of the Charollais cross lambs to convert grass and forage to lean meat is exceptional.

“Quick growing, well-shaped lambs with good skins are always in demand for both the local and export trade. Charollais cross lambs tick all the boxes for us and our customers. We’ve tried various breeds in the past, but the Charollais has been the most consistent and best suited to our system,” Julie concluded.

Related topics: