March Breeder Focus of the Month - Elaine Boyle, Newry Co.Armagh Ireland 🇮🇪

1. TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF 
My name is Elaine Boyle and along with my brother Michael, we run the small family farm, that has been in the family for generations. We are based just outside Newry Co.Armagh/Down (depending on which county football team you support !!). I also work full time, so there are plenty of early mornings and late nights looking after the sheep but it is enjoyable - most of the time!!

2. DO YOU HAVE A WEBSITE/FACEBOOK PAGE?
We have a Facebook page - Valais Blacknose Sheep Ireland, https://www.facebook.com/valaisblacknosesheepIreland/. We don’t have a website yet but hope to in the future. 

3. FLOCK PREFEX
Oakclose 

4. WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST VALAIS BLACKNOSE SHEEP?
We got our first Valais Blacknose sheep in June 2016, from the Whitehall flock. We started with a small breeding flock of 5 and grew the flock from there, with a few new purchases along the way. 

5. HOW BIG IS YOUR FLOCK?
We currently have 36, with a few lambs yet to be born, fingers crossed all goes well.

6. WHO HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE SHEEP AND WHY?
All of them, as they all have their own wee personalities but I suppose our first homebred lambs have a special place, especially Oakclose Errigal who gained maximum points, from the Swiss judges. The Valais Blacknose Sheep Society UK and the Swiss judges came to Northern Ireland to judge the quality of the sheep in 2017. This confirmed that our breeding programme was working and thankfully it has gone from strength to strength since then.

Other favourites include ‘Little Miss Oakclose Foxglove’ and ‘Oakclose Forget-me-not’, who are two of the worlds best escape artists and are always found playing with the children, (captured in the photo below).

7. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS YOU HAVE LEARNT ABOUT THE BREED ALONG THE WAY?
During the wet winter months, we would clip the wool around and between their hoofs, which definitely helps to maintain healthy feet. We don’t do this from March onwards, so as to allow the wool on their legs to be fully grown in time for the Black Beauties Show and Sale in August.

Another useful tip, is to be careful when tailing the lambs, you really only need to lose about an inch from the end, to achieve the optimum length.

8. WHAT ARE YOUR AMBITIONS FOR YOUR SHEEP?
To continue to breed quality Valais Blacknose Sheep, and to support more breeders of the Valais Blacknose Sheep in Ireland. We would like to see classes for the Valais Blacknose Sheep in all the big agricultural shows in Ireland and for many of the Irish breeders to attend the annual Blacknose Beauties Show and Sale in Carlisle in August.

A personal ambition of mine, is to go to Switzerland, hopefully next year, to see ‘the best of the best’ of the Valais Blacknose Sheep.

9. WHAT OTHER ANIMALS DO YOU HAVE?
We have 2 dogs, chickens and some Texel, Suffolk and Lleyn sheep.

10. WHAT IS THE BEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU BECAUSE OWNING BLACKNOSE SHEEP?
I think the best thing that has happened to us, is making new friends and getting to know lots more likeminded people, who have a real interest in protecting the breed and breeding top quality Valais Blacknose Sheep. The Valais Blacknose Sheep Society Uk, is a valuable resource, where members support each other and give advice when needed, a resource which I have used on many an occasion. 

FINALLY YOUR BEST PHOTO OF YOUR SHEEP...
Not a trophy photo but a win all the same - catching ‘Little Miss Foxglove and Forget-me-not’.