Last month, the Irish Texel Sheep Society, in association with the Irish Farmers Journal, launched its annual editorial competition for young sheep enthusiasts.

This year’s competition was broken into categories for different age groups, which will be spread out over the coming month.

The deadline for the youngest age category, 11 years and under, passed last week, with a great response from young writers.

We are delighted to announce the section winner is eight-year-old Harry Hargroves.

He will receive a €250 voucher to spend at the Irish Texel premier sale in August and advances to the final against the winners of the remaining age categories.

The next age category is for children aged 12 and 14, with the entry deadline this Friday 23 July.

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  • Why I am glad I had sheep in the last year: by Harry Hargroves

    I am eight years old and I live with my parents (mum Yvonne and dad Joe) and my sister Nicole in Derrynaseera, Coolrain, Portlaoise, Co Laois.

    We are livestock farmers; we have 100 cows which are sucklers and 60 ewes (40 commercial and 20 pedigree Beltex).

    I have two things I love to do, one is farming and the second is hurling. My favourite farming day is working with sheep and my favourite time of year is coming into the spring.

    I get so excited when it comes to lambing time. Sheep are much easier to work with than the cows, I think it has something to do with the size of them and my height.

    Since COVID–19 arrived in Ireland last year, I have been home more than I ever have since I started primary school. I have spent a large amount of time with the ewes and lambs, especially at lambing time, as both my parents work every day.

    I am not just glad I had sheep the last year, I am glad I have sheep since I can remember. My mum would tell me stories of how I would be out in the lambing shed in a buggy when I was six months old and up.

    I would crawl around in the shed hugging the baby lambs all excited and my love for sheep has just grown from there. I am now at the age my dad allows me to explore different breeds and sheep types – another one of my favourite things to do is go on DoneDeal and look at sheep. In school the teachers keep telling me it’s important to keep up my reading, and I am, reading DoneDeal.

    Sheep keep me busy all year round and I never get bored. I know every sheep I have, all their lambs and what they had last year. I always get the sheep in when my friends from school are over and tell them all I know about them. They love it. Last year, I brought my black Kerry ewe and her lamb to school when farming was the weekly topic.

    I found this ewe on DoneDeal and really wanted her. My Dad said ‘you are not buying her she is just too far away’. So one day, Eoin O’Sullivan who works with my dad in the factory, was out home and I asked him when he goes home on Friday, would he be able to buy the ewe for me and I would pay him back when he brings her up from Kerry.

    She cost €170 and when I went to pay him, he would not take the money, as Eoin stated it’s a gift to you from me to grow your own sheep flock. I was very grateful and still love my Kerry ewe.

    She is a Blue Texel ewe and she reared a really muscley black Beltex ram lamb, which I sold on DoneDeal to a guy from Thurles for €170. This was all profit for me, when the ewe was a gift, and my plan is to use my profit to grow my flock.

    I am able to lamb ewes on my own when the lamb is coming the right way. If there is anything wrong, I get my dad to help. Most of our ewes are quiet. We have great lambs from our Suffolk, Beltex, Texel and Rouge ewes. The ewe lambs from the Suffolk are great sellers if they have speckled heads.

    Before Covid–19, my friend from school Sophie came to my house one Saturday after my mum’s match. This day we both went out to check the ewes to make sure none of them were lambing and guess what, there was a ewe lambing.

    We were both really excited, as Sophie lives in the town and has never seen a lamb being born. She is a real animal lover to be fair. We had to get the ewe in ourselves. It was spilling rain and we were both laughing and joking till we got her into the lambing pen. Sophie then asked if she could help lamb the ewe. I showed her how to lamb the first lamb and Sophie helped lamb the second.

    She was delighted with herself, as she never saw anything like it before. We sprayed the lambs’ navels and gave them a suck. Sophie named the two lambs and asked for them quite often when we were in school.

    My cousin Ben comes over to my house and we always spend our days doing something with the ewes, spraying ewes with sore feet with blue spray, weighing lambs (I love that job), running around the pen trying to catch them and place them in the scales. Tagging lambs, shearing and dipping to help keep the maggots away. We always have the ewes sorted for dad before he gets home from work.

    I bought two ewes for dad at the premier Beltex sale in Tullamore last year. They are two fine ewes and has a single lamb each.

    My reason for entering this article is that I would like to have my own pedigree flock. Even though I like Beltex, I dislike lambing the pedigree Beltex as some of them are so small.

    The Texels are like the Beltex only they are bigger, they are muscular, clean and quiet.

    I will still have speckled lambs off the Suffolk ewes to sell for breeding and I will have show lambs for killing off the Rouge and Beltex.