Texel’s do the business for Cooley hill farmer
Martin Rice is a full time hill sheep farmer on the Cooley Mountains.
Martin runs Lanark type Blackface ewes, which he occasionally crosses with a Swaledale.
Martin crosses the hill ewe with the Texel rams to produce his own replacements (Hiltex) for the mountain. He then crosses the Hiltex with either a Texel or Bluefaced Leicester ram and sells ewe lambs from this cross as lowland replacements.
Martin say’s that when working on mountain ground you need a sheep breed that are hardy that withstand the harsh Irish spring weather. He reckons each lamb saved is minumum €100 in your pocket. He has been using Texel for years now and says it is adding value to his hill ewes as he has reduces losses during lambing due to the hardiness of the Texel. He also added that Texel also produces clean, fast growing well shaped lambs. Martin finishes the majority of his ram lambs on farm and sells the remainder as stores which he found is easily done as they consistently reach top prices at local sales.
Martin lambs in April. The Blackface and Hilltex ewes are gathered off the mountain in mid February. Ewes carrying twins are then kept down but the singles are returned to the hill where they remain till mid march. Martin finds the Hiltex do just as well on the mountain as the pure Blackies.
They all lamb outdoors and again he is very pleased with how the Hiltex ewes perform. “They lamb down with plenty of milk and are exceptional mothers” says Martin.
Martin is a member of Cooley Sheep Breeders and sells his Hilltex x Bluefaced Leicester cross lambs the September sale. Last year he proudly achieved the highest average of the sale with eighty lambs of this cross. These lambs are highly sought after and the feedback from his lowland customers is very positive. According to Martin: “They really like the shape that the Texel puts in them and the Texel cross ewe is as good a maternal ewe as there is out there”.
Martin always buys purebred Texel rams and says: “the key is to get out early and buy the longest most correct ram you can get”.