THE BELCLARE SHEEP
The Belclare is a maternal sheep breed, the society says and Belclare rams will add prolifically into the flock with daughters producing 2+ lambs/ewe. They produce good hardly lambs at birth which can also produce a good quality carcass. Belclare ewes are great mothers which produce plenty of milk. https://www.belclaresheep.com/
They are polled, white in colour with a good fleece, very sound feet, high resistance to worm infestation and low mastitis problems. Ewes are docile, have excellent mothering ability with a minimum of lambing difficulty and are capable of rearing three lambs if given adequate feed during lactation. Daughters of your own ewe flock, sired by a Belclare ram are capable of increasing lambing rates by up to 30%. For lowland flocks the national average is 1.28 lambs weaned per ewe joined with rams. Research shows the only real way of substantially increasing income from sheep farming is by increasing the number of lambs sold per ewe joined. Belclare rams are ideal for use on ewe lambs. The lambs are easily lambed, hardy, vigorous, aggressive suckers, and will not be rejected easily.
The Belclare Sheep breed was a new word among sheep breeds in Ireland, when they appeared on the scene in the late 1970’s.
This new breed was developed at An Forus Taluntais (TEAGASC) research centre at Belclare hence the name of the breed. The Belclare breed came about solely by the vision, dedication and foresight of one man, Dr. J.P. Hanrahan. Dr Hanrahan is a scientist in sheep breeding with much experience in Australia and elsewhere. Back home Dr Hanrahan saw the necessity to raise lamb numbers in the national flock where lamb percentage at the time stood at approx. 125%. His initial work on the Belclare project involved research with ewes of many breeds that occasionally produced triplets. He later carried out trials with Finnish Landrace on Galway sheep. He next introduced Lleyn Sheep to the mix in the mid 70’s and so the nucleus of the Belclare was formed. The breed was first introduced to farmers in 1982 when a small number of sheep farmers were approached to breed rams for the institute which were bought back in the autumn for redistribution to interested sheep farmers.
Forming the Belclare Sheep Society
A meeting took place in the Royal Hoey Hotel, in Athlone on the 11th of October 1985. The purpose of the meeting was to form the Belclare Sheep Society. After long hours of discussions and suggestions the Belclare Sheep Society was formed and following officers were elected.
President: Dr J.P. Hanrahan, Chairman Mr. PJ O Dea, Galway, And Secretaries Mr Pat O’ Dea, Agricultural Institute, Mr. Joe Teasdale, Kilkenny, Committee: Mr. Niall Connelly, Louth, Mr. Pat Carey, Wicklow and Mr. Tom Sice, Galway.
The Early Belclare
The first Belclare sheep where called Belclare improvers and had a significant amounts of Finnish Landrace blood. Litter size was high but the breed lacked substance and conformation. To rectify this the Belclare’ s were crossed with Texel rams to produce what was termed the Belclare Mark II from which today’s Belclare sheep have originated.
The Belclare sheep that are found on Irish farms today are very different sheep from their ancestors that started the breed almost 40 years ago. Infusions of Texel blood coupled with rigorous selection and culling by dedicated Belclare breeders resulted in the specimens that are seen on farms nowadays. This has allowed the Belclare not only to command the premier position as a maternal sire but also allows it to compete with terminal sire breeds as a breed that is able to sire rapidly growing fleshy lambs.
Historically the breed had an across the breed estimated breeding value programme in place known as EBV 95. The EBV's were expressed as a deviation from the average EBV for all animals born in 1995 and had a growth record. The result was called EBV 95 on the listings. Thus an animal with an EBV 95 of 15 had a genetic merit for growth rate that was 15g higher than the average for 1995 born animals. This EBV 95 was also expressed as a growth rate index, which was a similar scale to that used by the Department of Agriculture for breeds involved in the National Sheep Breed Improvement Programme. The index that was on the EBV 95 listings was calculated so as to have the mean for 1995 born animals equal to 100.
This monitoring has now been transferred to Sheep Ireland who use a star rating system.
All Pedigree Belclare sheep, pedigree breeders and flock book information plus MALP & CPT (http://www.sheep.ie) returns contribute to make the star-ratings a valuable asset in assisting you decide the Belclare ram or the Belclare sheep best suited to your requirements.
Belclare is the only sheep breed society in Ireland to be all inclusive in a breed improvement programme. This all inclusive programme was initiated in 1995.
The programme is used by Belclare breeders selecting their replacement ewes and stock rams, so you can be assured that every time you return to buy a Belclare ram, he is a step up from the previous one.