The Dorset breed has a long history of quality lamb production across the world, and this ability coupled with their unrivalled breeding traits for early season and out of season lambing, are just some of the breed characteristics that have been responsible for a strong following for the breed in Northern Ireland.
A man who will endorse the qualities of the Dorset breed is Barney Moss, a hill farmer from County Tyrone. Barney runs close on 1200 ewes in a rugged upland area which straddles the Scraghey Road between Castlederg and Ederney.
While Barney and son Martin overwinter their crossbred and Dorset sheep under cover in this harsh environment early Spring sees them turned out to graze, ranging over 460 acres, a lot of it being upland mountain pasture.
The Dorset breed makes up a significant proportion of Barney’s ewes. He first introduced the breed in the early 80’s, and having initially purchased 20 hoggets, and a Dorset ram from a sale in Ballymena, Barney was soon to see the benefits of his investment in the lambs produced. He found the ewes made great mothers, being ‘birthy’ and having lots of milk, with the lambs getting to their feet in double quick time looking for that vital first suck.
The natural hardiness of the breed sees them suited to early turn out and capable of withstanding the adverse weather conditions that this environment throws at them. In addition to this Barney has also found that the young Dorset lamb does well on natural high fibre hill forage, hence being easily finished and quick to reach the desired weight.
Barney has since grown his Dorset flock through the retention of a number of ewe lambs over the intervening years since his first purchase. These have continued the breed traits of being great mothers, being prolific and milky, having the capacity to produce plenty of good quality strong lambs which thrive well in the conditions and are quick to finish. This has led to both Barney and Martin being very pleased with the influence of the Dorset breed on their flock, and consequently has seen them continuing to introduce new bloodlines on a regular basis.
The N.I.Dorset club has been promoting the Dorset breed for well over 50 years and for the past 45 years part of this promotion has been the organisation of the Premier Dorset Show & Sale.
New bloodlines are continuously coming forward, and commercial and pedigree breeders will have the opportunity to purchase breeding stock at this year’s annual Premier Show & Sale, to be held at J A McClelland & Son Livestock Mart on Monday, 31 July (show at 1.30pm), sale at 6pm.