Dispersal sales offering elite performing female bloodlines do not come about very often.

It is therefore not surprising that there is a high level of interest building ahead of the upcoming dispersal sale of the Coolkellure Belclare, Coolkellure Charollais and Coolkellure Texel flocks, taking place in Tullamore Mart on Saturday 20 July.

The flocks, run by Michael and Edwina Gottstein and their children Caoimhe and Micháel in Coolkellure, Co Cork, possess some of the country’s top performing genetics.

Genetics from the long-established Coolkellure Belclare flock have been prominent in the top accolades in the Belclare Sheep Society premier sales over the years.

Ram lambs pictured 600ft above sea level. Sheep must be capable of performing in a challenging environment.

The flock bred the ewe that produced the premier sale champion, Luskenagh Johann, in 2023, while, at the same sale, Coolkellure Jeffrey was tapped forward as reserve champion.

This was a repeat of the 2022 sale where Coolkellure Harry was also judged as reserve champion.

Ewe lambs are well grown and are well capable of being bred, if desired, in 2024.

The flock produced the highest-priced ram lambs at the Sheep Ireland elite sale in 2021 with Coolkellure Hse Garcia and the Belclare premier sale in 2020 with Coolkellure Fidal.

The bloodlines which bred these sheep are dominant throughout the flock in mature ewes, hoggets and ewe lambs.

Highest ranking flock

The Coolkellure Charollais flock currently boasts being the highest index pedigree Charollais flock based on both the Sheep Ireland terminal and replacement indices in June 2024.

Lot five in the sale, Coolkellure J221012, is the second-highest ranked replacement index female out of over 55,000 sheep in the Charollais sheep flock book, with many other females ranked in the top 1% of the breed.

Michael and Edwina Gottstein pictured with ewes on their farm in Coolkellure, Co Cork.

The Coolkellure Texel flock is a relatively new addition to the farm, having been founded in 2022 from elite genetics from the Foundry Texel flock of Anne Murphy, and is offering two year old ewes from the flock and two homebred ewe lambs.

Breeding focus

The Belclare flock was formed in 2004 with the purchase of five hogget ewes from the renowned Slanemore Hill Flock.

This was followed with strategic purchases from other well-established flocks through a period of flock expansion until 2008, with only high-index rams purchased since then.

A sharp-headed homebred Texel ewe lamb.

Michael explains that the emphasis in the Belclare flock has been on selecting sheep that are true to type, while improving terminal characteristics.

“The fact that maternal traits are naturally strong allowed us to focus a bit more on producing progeny with a good skin that are capable of achieving high growth rates and favourable carcase traits.

"We sell 70% of rams at home and a high percentage of our repeat buyers are store lamb producers, often crossing with a hill type ewe, so we needed to provide a ram that will give them a good store lamb to sell.”

Charollais flock

This focus is also apparent in the Charollais flock, which was formed in 2014 with the purchase of hogget ewes from the Bawnard Flock.

The replacement policy since then has been to retain females with desired characteristics with proven high-index rams selected based on type, cover and carcase traits.

The flock is again built on a strong foundation of maternal traits, with ewes typically scanning from 2.1 lambs to 2.3 lambs per ewe joined placing the majority of sheep on offer in the top 20% of the breed for number of lambs born.

A high percentage of sheep also boast similar figures for lamb survivability.

Michael attributes the latter performance to selecting sheep with a better cover of wool / white faces and improved cold tolerance.

“We are farming at a high stocking rate 600 feet above sea level with many local customers in a similar or more challenging environment.

"Lambs are turned out to grass by day in January and full-time from February, so if lambs or ewes can’t hack it and achieve target performance, then there is no place for them in the breeding programme,” he said.

This focus is in the spotlight following a challenging spring for even the latest lambing flocks.

Desired traits

Longevity has also a focus in the flock and this has allowed the farm develop an enterprise of selling in-lamb ewe hoggets in recent years.

“We don’t focus on checking mouths when assessing ewes and instead look at body condition. Ewes are supplemented at grass for a few weeks after lambing and after that it is up to them to do it on grass.”

Lot 40, Coolkellure MG1500193, is testament to this. Born in January 2015, the ewe has produced 16 lambs in eight lambings, all of which survived.

She is a full sister to Coolkellure Ace, former stock ram to the Oltore Flock. She also bred the 2022 premier reserve champion, while one of her daughters bred the 2023 premier champ.

“She is not much to look at now, but she reared two great lambs in 2024 and would be the first ewe selected again for this year.”

Health traits

The flock’s health policy is straightforward, with sheep only vaccinated for clostridial diseases and on a Heptavac-P programme.

The Coolkellure Belclare, Charollais and Texel flocks will be dispersed on Saturday 20 July in Tullamore Mart.

The flock does not vaccinate for conditions such as enzootic abortion or toxoplasmosis as it is not something that has been identified as causing an issue. Any sheep bought in go through a strict biosecurity protocol before joining the flock.

Breeding programme

The breeding programme has focused on synchronising ewes and natural mating. Ewes are synchronised in three windows with sponges removed 48 hours apart.

Michael has found he has achieved improved conception rates in recent years from retaining a few cull ewes to mate with rams in advance of breeding, with this attributed to a higher conception rate in the first ewes bred.

Rams are housed with eight ewes joined for 12 hours and then given a break until the next group of eight ewes are introduced 48 hours later.

Ewes are allowed one repeat breeding and any ewes not in lambs are mated to lamb in March. This has typically been less than 10% of the flock.

The flock has consistently averaged two lambs reared per ewe joined with about 40 to 50 ewe lambs and 50 ram lambs retained from 150 to 160 lambs reared.

Sale details

The sale takes place at Saturday 20 July, with viewing from 10am and the sale starting at 12.30pm.

All sheep will be sold on the day, with no reserve sale price. There are 26 Belclare ewes, 18 hogget ewes, 16 ewe lambs and one stock ram, Silverbrook Jameson.

Charollais entries include 10 adult ewes, 13 hoggets ewes, seven ewe lambs and a stock ram, Redtrench Avatar. Texel include five two year old ewes and two ewe lambs.

A copy of the sale catalogue is available here.