Dorset - the sheep for all seasons

Aaron Fearon, a native of Rostrevor has established the Newross pedigree Dorset flock on the foothills of the Mournes.

Tuesday, 31st July 2018, 8:17 am
Updated Friday, 31st August 2018, 5:01 pm
Aaron and Dad Leo with their flock of Dorset ewes.
Aaron and Dad Leo with their flock of Dorset ewes.

This is a creditable achievement since Aaron bought his foundation stock of Dorset ewe lambs at J.A McClelland & Sons Livestock Mart, Ballymena in 2009, given that at that time he was all of 12 years old.

Since then he has steadily increased and built his pedigrees into a highly regarded Dorset flock of outstanding sheep, with quality being to the fore and acknowledged in recent Flock Competitions. Aaron’s pedigree flock is managed according to the Dorset ‘year’ with ewes lambing down in September, not an issue for a breed capable of lambing all year round and indeed if required capable of giving three crops of lambs over a two year period. Aaron recorded almost 200% lambing in 2017 and this year he has adopted the AI live semen programme with great success. Consequently Aaron has the annual decision to make regarding ewe lambs to be retained in the flock or sold off at one of the annual Dorset Society sales. Ram lambs can be kept over for breeding or alternatively sold for the table for above average out of season prices.

Aaron’s father Leo, not to be left out has over recent years introduced a Dorset cross strain into his March lambing commercial flock, the benefits of which are notable with the result that he has now the majority of his flock carrying the Dorset traits. Between managing his sizable flock and keeping a vigilant eye on Aaron’s pedigree flock while he attends University during the week, Leo is a busy man, given his mixed farming enterprises.

However, he notes that one of the benefits of having introduced the Dorset strain into his flock is that of low maintenance with the lambs being thrifty and quick to rise, while there are plenty of them owing to the prolific nature of the breed. The mothering instincts and milking capability of the ewe ensures that the lamb gets off to a great start, and their hardy nature sees them getting on to the foothills of the Mournes often from day one. Leo is well pleased, with his ewes being adaptable to all conditions and lambs quick to finish in reaching their optimum 22 kilos target.

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 having developed a strong following in Ireland, North and South.

The N.I.Dorset club has been promoting the Dorset breed for well over 50 years and for the past 46 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, generously sponsored by Norbrook Laboratories who have a long history of Association with the N.I. Dorset Club.

The Sale will be held at J A McClelland & Son Livestock Mart on Monday 30 July, showing commencing at 1.30pm with the judge being Matt Care, Burhos Flock, Cornwall, and the sale commencing at 6.00pm.