I live in south Kilkenny on a beef, sheep and tillage farm. In the summer, the farm is always busy, whether it is cutting corn, weighing lambs or selling rams.
We have 700 ewes, including pedigree Suffolk, Texel, Ile de France and Easycare. We only have to shear a few hundred sheep as we mainly have Easycare sheep which lose their wool naturally. Lambing is the busiest time of the year because there are loads of new little lambs that need attention and the purebred ewes have to be watched in case of trouble lambing, while the Easycare ewes lamb outside.
We lamb in March and April and all our lambs are tagged and recorded at birth with Sheep Ireland to keep track of pedigrees. Dad fattens lambs and sends them to Irish Country Meats. Ewe lambs that are performing well are kept to breed and a very select few ram lambs are kept until they’re hoggets and are sold as breeding rams to customers.
We try to maximise weight gain by including multispecies swards and redstart into lambs’ diets. We also plant cover crops of forage rape and leafy turnip after our winter cereals for grazing our ewes over the winter. To help with the sheep we have three working dogs and a new pup, which will be trained later this year to herd the sheep.
We contract-rear dairy heifers for a neighbouring farmer. We get the calves when they are about 14 weeks old, we keep them until the following September. The heifers are served with AI on the farm as well. We also raise Angus beef calves for ABP. We keep the cattle until they are 20 months old, when they go for slaughter.
This year, we had spring and winter wheat planted. The wheat was harvested in August and sent to Connolly’s Red Mills to be turned into animal feed products. We also crimp some of our wheat to keep for feeding the sheep and cattle. The straw from the wheat is turned into round bales and stored for when the livestock are inside. It will be used as bedding and in the diet feeder for the beef cattle. We had silage cut in the first week of June by our local contractors. The silage will be used as feed for the cattle and sheep.
In addition to the cattle and sheep, we have chickens and three horses. The chickens’ eggs are collected for us to eat. The horses are ridden by my sisters and me. We compete in the summer months. In school we study farming relevant topics, like soils in geography and genetics in science. With school back now I miss spending as much time on the farm as I could in the summer.