Matthew Kehoe, Gorey, Co. Wexford, owns the Macamore flock which comprises of pedigree Jacob, Suffolk and Wensleydale sheep. The 21-year-old – who is a third-year Animal Science student at UCD – writes a weekly update – here is his next submission.
Following on from an article I wrote a few weeks ago, I’ve had a few enquiries about our wool. While I usually wholesale it every year, we will have raw unwashed Jacob and Wensleydale fleeces for sale in November at shearing.
With the constant news of dog attacks on sheep, I thought I’d give a mention of our guard llama. As our holding is surrounded by road on two sides. we are at constant risk of roaming and walked dogs. While the road gates have 2-inch weld mesh attached to them, the hedges are far from dog-proof.
At present, we have a four-year-old castrated llama running with our flock while at pasture. As he is kept singly, he has bonded with the flock and, in turn, should flock with them should a dog enter the field.
I’m encouraged to see that he will actively look for and chase walked dogs along the fence line from his side of the hedge.
We got him for free as a yearling a few years ago, had him castrated, turned him out with the flock and have had no trouble with him since.
Yearly husbandry is nothing more than a fluke and worm drench in the winter and shearing in the summer. He has yet to require any kind of nail or tooth clipping.
As we winter shear the flock prior to housing the llama winters outdoors at grass and I blade shear him in May.
I had looked into the possibility of running a livestock guardian dog or donkey with the flock but opted for a llama for a number of reasons, mainly surrounding the labour involved in keeping one.
A livestock guardian dog simply would not suit our system as it doesn’t eat grass and would require daily feeding. And while a donkey can live off grass for most of the year, it still requires regular hoof paring.
I’ve also heard of a few cases where donkeys have been known to kick and either kill or injure young lambs or new animals introduced to the flock.