Oltore Belclares have been nominated for the highest achieving LambPlus flock in 2020 and are one of three flocks nominated for the award. The Oltore flock was established by Tim Keady in 2016 (pictured above with his father Tim) and is based in Caherlistrane, Co. Galway. The flock has been enrolled in LambPlus since establishment. The Keadys have been breeding Belclare sheep for many years prior to this and participated in the co-operative breeding programme run by Prof J Hanrahan for AFT in the 1970s when developing the Belclare Breed. They were one of the flocks to receive Belclare Improver rams on their first release from the Belclare Research Centre in 1983 and continued purchasing pedigree rams to breed flock replacements. Thus, all sheep on the farm are now purebred Belclare. In the last few years the flock has reared up to 2.2 lambs per ewe joined. The best ewe lambs are selected as replacements each year, concentrating on a combination of physical traits and €uro-Star indices, the remaining ewe lambs are sold to return-customer commercial farmers as breeding stock with all non-suitable breeding stock drafted for slaughter prior to the end of the grazing season.
All ewes are lambed in March with the aim to specialise in the production of hogget rams for sale. Tim has put a huge effort into data recording and this effort is evident from his exceptional DQI score of 99.8% highlighting that all the relevant performance recording data is being collected accurately and recorded in a timely fashion. To achieve such a high DQI score, recording starts at mating with each mating being recorded followed by pregnancy scans and both are recorded within two weeks of the event occurring. The busiest time for data recording is at lambing and Tim stated that recording lambing data as accurately as possible is key to achieving a good DQI and without accurate data a genetic improvement programme cannot deliver genetic gains in the national flock. One area that Tim feels is very important is to record data such as lambing difficulty as described in the Sheep Ireland notebook. All of Tim’s data recording is completed in the Sheep Ireland lambing notebook and is uploaded to the Sheep Ireland database regularly during lambing to avoid any backlog of records. Tim would advise breeders to recording lambing data frequently during lambing.
The aim in the Oltore flock is to breed what the customer wants which is an animal with good €uro-Star figures while having length, size and conformation.
When selecting replacements or purchasing a stock ram Tim uses the €uro-Star values hand-in-hand with selecting a true-to-type animal. As well as selecting on the two main indexes, Tim likes to focus on the milk and days to slaughter sub-indices as he feels these are the main traits that are required by commercial producers. Tim commented that he judges success in this regard by customer satisfaction and the level of repeat custom for his stock rams.
Selecting the top Belclare animals in the Replacement and Terminal indexes has resulted in Tim’s 2020 born lambs having a very impressive average €uro-Star value of €6.29 on the Replacement index and an average €uro-Star value of €0.98 on the Terminal index. Tim pointed out that although the animal’s Replacement and Terminal indexes are very important it is also extremely important to him that the animal is correct, functional, and able to perform in a commercial setting. Tim culls hard for any physical faults with the objective of not passing on poor physical traits to the next generations. All replacements are mated as ewe lambs and Tim feels that mating ewe lambs provides him with hoggets which have better mothering ability the following year while also increasing the annual rate of genetic gain within the flock. All ewes are mated naturally and the whole flock is managed in a commercial grass-based system.
When establishing the Oltore flock the foundation stock was sourced from the Kilmeany and Violet Hill flocks. Many influential sires, are represented in the flock, including Aloon Elong (BE1901350) who is in the top 1% on the Terminal index and Silverbrook Fitzgerald who is in the top 4% on both the Replacement and Terminal indexes as well as the top 1% on days to slaughter and daughters milk. Tim takes a lot of care to avoid inbreeding and maintains many different bloodlines within the flock which allows him to use some homebred rams as stock rams. A homebred ram, Oltore Bart, with a Replacement index value of €6.76 (Top 10%), an index accuracy of 80% and top 9% for daughters milk has sired 120 lambs in the flock, and one of his triplet brothers holds the current record price for a hogget ram sold at a Belclare Society sale. The Oltore flock has produced some top quality Belclare rams such as Oltore Champion (Top 9% Replacement),Oltore Dominator (Top 5% Replacement, Top 9% Terminal, Top 4% days to slaughter), Oltore Everest(Top 3% Replacement, Top 8% Terminal) who entered the CPT in 2020, Oltore Foreman (Top 3% for Replacement and Top 1% for Terminal, Top 1% days to slaughter) Oltore Fox (Top 3% Replacement, Top 1% Terminal, Top 1% days to slaughter) and Oltore Fred (Top 2% Replacement, Top 4% Terminal, Top 10% daughters milk). The Oltore flock has also proved very successful in the show ring since establishment, claiming a number of 1st and 2nd rosettes at each of the Belclare Premier sales, and overall reserve champion in 2020, proving quality and stars can be combined.
The overall winner of the highest achieving LambPlus flock will be announced in late February and will receive a cash prize of €1,000, an engraved trophy and bragging rights for the year ahead. The two other finalists will receive a cash prize of €500 and a framed award. The LambPlus awards are kindly sponsored by FBD.