Colin has just returned home from John Doyle’s mart in Blessington with two Texel rams from Monaghan. One’s a four year old, the other a two year old, both pedigree and hopefully raring to go, or ‘full of jizz’ as my maternal grandmother used to say cheerfully as she headed off out to bridge. At 400E and 520E apiece, they’re the biggest livestock investment we’ll make this year. Custom has it that you ask the vendor for a ‘luck penny’ (10 / 20 e) to guarantee their quality.
The reason for getting them is that our status as a UCD test farm has come to an end. We used to ‘synchronize’ our ewes and then borrow 10 rams from the Lyons estate to service them as they all became fertile in the same 24 hour period. It all resembled an ovine corps de ballet, as one fella’s head appeared above the flock while another’s disappeared elsewhere.
Our first Zwartbles ram, Oscar, who appears in the book, caused us consternation the first day he went out. He spent the day chasing just one ewe. Before you let the rams out, you cover their bellies in yellow raddle, a powdered dye, that leaves a tell tale mark when a ewe has been tupped. The next day, we woke to find the face and forequarters of his mate a startling yellow color, while the end that mattered was untouched.
Oscar – the black sheep of the family.