Ciara Kinsella farms in a family partnership with her mother Frances in Crossabeg, Co Wexford. The main enterprise on the 25ha holding is a sheep flock.

The 110 ewes lamb in late February and early March, with 90% lambing over a two-week period.

Three rams – Texel, Charollais and Lleyn – ran with the ewes this autumn. The Lleyn ram was an addition this year and ewes are due to be scanned on 11 December.

The family are trying to find more diverse income streams. Ciara breeds sport horses.

There is a 6ha forestry plantation on the farm and Ciara’s husband Liam keeps bees and plans to expand this enterprise significantly under the Tykillen Farm brand.

Some of the beeswax products produced by Tykillen Farm.

Tykillen Farm is a busy place. Ciara, is a vet and works a couple of days a week for a local practice alongside the farm work and family life.

The future

Looking to the future, she is very much aware of the prospect of adding value to product by showing it is being produced sustainably or for being rewarded for habitats or carbon sequestered on farm.

Ciara has a keen interest in calculating the carbon footprint of the farm and reducing that footprint year-on-year by changing some of the current farming practices.

She is also keen to protect and improve habitats and be conscious of the environment on and around the farm. The reason behind this is to have a positive impact on the wider environment, but also to enjoy life on the farm and to pass it on to the next generation in good condition.

Ciara stocks her sheep at approximately 8 ewes/ha. Lambing is carried out in the spring and lambs are sold to Irish Country Meats in Camolin. The farm is part of a producer group.

Ciara is focused on reducing inputs, particularly fertiliser, and planted a multispecies sward in 2020.

The sward really took off last summer. This was planted with the aim of reducing artificial nitrogen use, but will also provide plenty of flowers for the bees. Ciara is keen to improve her knowledge of the soil and in turn improve soil quality and reduce inputs. She hopes that the different rooting depths in the multispecies sward will help to improve soil structure and that the diversity will improve soil health, making it more resilient in some of the more extreme weather events.

Tykillen Farm is located on the banks of the river Slaney and water quality is something that the family are conscious of. Reducing artificial nitrogen use can help to reduce the risk of loss to water as well as reducing costs.

The multispecies sward looked well this season and while Ciara knows there are issues with persistence, the sward should still leave a high percentage of clover even if the chicory or the plantain reduce in numbers.

Soil samples taken on the farm last spring show that the farm is in a really good position. Soil pH is at an average of 6.5 and the range is 6.3 to 6.7, so there is very little work to do here, but soil test results will be monitored.

Both phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are at an average of index 3 on the farm. However, this will be watched closely as the majority of samples are at 3 or lower, with only a small number in index 4.

Index 3 is the optimum, but the challenge will be to keep soil at this level. In the year ahead straw from under the horses might be best targeted at some of the soils low in K and farmyard manure from under the sheep might be targeted at those low in P.

Soil test results also showed low manganese, boron and zinc status, while magnesium and copper were high.

Diversity is now a buzzword in farming and it certainly appears that more diverse income streams will be needed to maintain and improve incomes on farms.

Tykillen Farm now has its own website from which the farm’s honey is sold. The focus is on local, sustainable food. Ciara and Liam are active on social media and regularly update their website with videos and news from the farm.

There are now 10 hives on the farm, with plans for further expansion. Raw honey is sold as well as other products such as beeswax candles, soap, bath salts, handsalve and lip balm. We look forward to following the farm’s progress.