2nd April 2018

DORSET sheep clearly delight George Robson and family of Doagh Co Antrim as they run, not only an award winning 50 strong pedigree flock, but 550 commercial pure bred ewes.

The Ballyhamage Pedigree Poll Dorset Flock was founded in 1979 when George purchased two Dorset ewes with the encouragement of his late father, George Snr. The father and son were so pleased with their pedigree Dorsets that a commercial flock was developed. "We found the Dorset boosts output as the breed lambs three times in two years so lambs are away to a Dunbia collection point most weeks of the year," explained George. "However, with a large beef enterprise being run as well here there was less time for the pedigree flock. So for a variety of reasons it slipped to the margins of our farming for a few years.

"But then the third generation, sons James and Craig, took over the pedigree flock; work they clearly enjoy. A year past they won the Best Pedigree Dorset Small Flock in the entire UK. Award and the Best Batch of Ewes Lambs overall in the country!

"Quite an achievement as James is only full time on the farm this past couple of years since completing the level 3 diploma in agriculture course at Greenmount College while Craig is still in second year at Ballyclare High School.

"Aside from showing Dorsets at key local shows and club sales they also sell into the heartland of the breed at the famous Dorset May Fair down near Exeter. No wonder their late grandfather was so proud of their achievements in livestock breeding," added George. "Dad even got to see them sell their first rams across the water in 2014, which proved to be his last year attending the sale."

Since taking over running the Ballyhamage Flock when still at school 10 years ago James Robson has seen Dorsets become much more popular with pedigree and commercial flock owners.

"There are an increasing number of breeders in our NI Club and elsewhere in the UK Dorsets are now found right up into Scotland. Indeed our Association AGM was held north of Hadrian's Wall last year.

"In our commercial flock virtually all lambs grade U or R and lambing three times in two years has a massive impact on our bottom line.

"Dorsets are a breed for a good cash flow, increased output per ewe and per hectare. A sheep easy to work with in the field and if housed for lambing. No wonder we also have a great demand from folk looking ewe lambs for breeding."

His father George adding that Dorsets suit their land as most years they have a long grazing season and can use root crops such as turnips to get stock finished. Though an endless winter and cold delayed spring has made this more problematic in 2018.

Thankfully routine ear tagging ewes and the almost weekly batches of lambs leaving the farm is simpler and speedier since the arrival of a TagFaster automatic tagging applicator. Developed by Roxan of Selkirk in the Scottish Borders this unique piece of kit has proved a major time and hassle saver for the Robson team.

Developed by Roxan the TagFaster holds up to 10 double tags thus saving time and money.

As James Robson notes "With their own tag production facility in Northern Ireland, orders we place one morning with Roxan are here the next day at a price that pleases.

Even more important these tags are great at staying in the ear."

TagFaster is the combination of an innovative tag and automatic dispenser to do the job up to six times faster! Sealed electronics offer reliable read rates and eliminates any risk of transponder loss. Described as lightweight yet strong TagFaster welfare friendly pins pierce ears with minimal tissue damaged.

Written by
Rodney Magowan

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