Blaise finds Suffolk thrives in all seasons

Fintona sheep farmer Blaise McCarney has learned through experience the benefits of using a Suffolk ram
Fintona sheep farmer Blaise McCarney has learned through experience the benefits of using a Suffolk ram

Blaise McCarney considers himself something of a novice when it comes to sheep farming but in a relatively short time has learned through experience the many benefits of using a Suffolk ram on his commercial flock.

Having spent a number of years in the building trade and contract business, Blaise decided to go into farming full-time and currently runs 300 ewes and 100 replacements on his farm located on the Tempo Road three miles outside the village of Fintona, Co Tyrone.

The land type is something of a mixed bag and it’s a case of horses for courses when it comes to ewe type.

Blaise runs a flock of pure bred Blackface horned ewes on his hill ground that stretches right up to the Screggagh wind farm.

These are covered with a Blue Leicester ram to breed replacements for a commercial flock of quality Mule ewes which, in turn, are grazed on grassland and crossed with a pure bred Suffolk ram.

“All the Suffolk lambs are finished and fattened and there is never any issues with them,” said Blaise.

“They have fantastic growth rates and never seem to stall, they keep going.

“The Blackface are all lambed outdoors and the Mules indoors. The Mules are penned after lambing, we make sure everything is right and then they go straight out. They are in for 24 hours and straight out the door.

“As far as the weather goes there are no problems with the Suffolk, this year was a real tester and I had no losses. The Suffolk lamb has a good fleece and good skin on him and away they go.

“I do a bit of recording and Suffolk lambs have good birth weights, I certainly find them livelier than other breeds I have used in the past. Birth weights are increasing through better management, experience and that.

“Moving to a pedigree Suffolk was a game-changer for me, I noticed a big difference.”

Blaise sells all his lambs live with most of them going through Clogher mart. On occasion he’ll sell Suffolk cross ewe lambs privately for further breeding.

“I had one farmer who came and bought 60 off me in one batch last year,” he added.

“Sometimes I introduce creep feed but so far this year the lambs have been grazed on grass only. I haven’t made a decision on whether I’ll creep feed or not.

“In the past I have introduced creep feeding at four weeks and by weaning all the lambs were ready for sale. It all depends on conditions and grass supply.

“But irrespective of the conditions if a Suffolk lamb is healthy he’ll keep growing and putting on the weight.

“One thing’s for sure the Suffolk compliments the Mule ewe. I have heard men say the Suffolk can be hard to lamb, not in my experience.”

Blaise finishes his lambs at around 45kg liveweight but that changes depending on price at the time. This year he’s considering selling them slightly lighter.