Overall Lowland Champion – William Clarke

Farmer: William Clarke and father David

Farm location: Hillsire, Ardrums, Rathmoylan, Co Meath.

Area farmed: 200 acres (81ha)

Flock size: 570 mid-season lambing ewes and ewe lambs

Production focus: Lowland farming system

Vaccinates against: Pasteurella, clostridial diseases, enzootic abortion and toxoplasmosis

The judges’ comments on William’s farm.

Darren Carty, Irish Farmers Journal – Breeding

“The breeding policy on the Clarke farm is balanced between breeding prolific replacements with good maternal traits and progeny possessing good terminal attributes and capable of recording favourable slaughter performance. Belclare genetics is delivering the potential for high levels of output and the criss-cross breeding strategy with Suffolk genetics is maintaining output at an optimum level for the farm. Charollais rams with strong terminal traits are bred to ewes not required for breeding replacements and this is enhancing growth rates in progeny from this breeding mix and capitalising on easy lambing in yearling hoggets.”

Tommy Boland, University College Dublin – Nutrition

“William demonstrated a very clear understanding of the benefits of and the role of BCS in his sheep enterprise. He had a clear plan of when to prioritise the feeding of his flock to optimise performance. Concentrate supplementation was strategic in its use and targeted at animals with a high nutrient requirement, and’/or to achieve the timely finishing of lambs. Grassland management was of a high standard, with multiple grazing divisions and a strategic autumn closing plan to facilitate spring grazing management.”

Ciaran Lynch, Teagasc – Management

“William alongside his father is operating a highly productive mid-season flock where they focus on doing the basics very well. The flock is consistently achieving a high output with scans of over 2.1 for the mature ewes and 1.4 for the ewe lambs which is delivering a high weaning rate, reflecting their breeding policy and ewe management. William operates a simple but effective recording system for the identification of breeding groups in the autumn to selection of potential replacements and identifying culls throughout the year. William also has a good handle on the costs involved in his system and a clear focus managing a profitable lowland sheep enterprise.”

Sarah Campbell, MSD Animal Health – Animal Health

“William and his father place a strong emphasis on the health of their flock. They make use of diagnostic testing for animal health related issues and consult with their vet regarding disease control planning. They utilise their vets advice and support to implement their flock health plan and adapt to any changes that need to be taken each year.

“William takes a preventative approach to disease and has implemented a rigorous vaccination programme. His overall aim is to improve the flock immunity to reduce the impact of health issues and loss due to sudden death.

“This results in fewer health related problems throughout the year, improved productivity and overall farm profitability.”

William’s Vet: John Drum, Blackwater Veterinary Clinic

“William is a great farmer. We have worked together in putting a flock health plan and vaccination programme in place.

“He’s very proactive. If a problem arises, he addresses it straightaway. At the end of the day, he produces quality lamb.”

Overall Hill Champion – Martin Hopkins

Overall hill champion, Martin Hopkins on his farm in Drummin, Westport, Co Mayo.

Farmer: Martin Hopkins

Farm location: Barnaderg, Drummin, Westport, Co Mayo

Area farmed: 120 acres (49ha)

Flock size: 300 Mayo-Blackface ewes

Production focus: Hill farming system

Vaccinates against: Pasteurella and clostridial diseases

The judges comments on Martin’s farm.

Darren Carty, Irish Farmers Journal – Breeding

“The breeding programme in place on Martin Hopkin’s farm is positively focused on breeding a ewe that will first and foremost excel in the challenging environment in which it is run. Martin is still aiming to improve the genetics of the flock in sourcing rams but stays true to his breeding objectives and sources rams which have been produced on a similar land type. He is also improving the grazing infrastructure to be in a position to carry out single sire mating and track performance of different breeding lines. A strong emphasis is also placed on enhancing mothering ability, hardiness and longevity.”

Tommy Boland, University College Dublin – Nutrition

“Martin displayed a very clear understanding of the strengths of his farm and has targeted his sheep system to avail of these strengths. Martins lambing and flock management is designed in such a way as to maximise the natural resources available to him. Concentrate supplementation is very strategic and focused, and not only focused on the performance of animals within his flock, but also to ensure the optimum performance of the store lambs he sells on for finishing.”

Ciaran Lynch, Teagasc – Management

“Martin ewes are achieving a good scan with a low barren rate, hitting an optimal output for the farm. His management focuses on keeping feed inputs low and striking the balance between utilizing his enclosed ground and managing the hill grazing to maintain high nature value farmland. With all male lambs sold as stores each autumn this allows Martin to prioritise the enclosed ground for his ewe flock in run up to joining. He has invested in creating extra divisions in the enclosed land to allow him to better manage the grazing and improve herbage quality.”

Sarah Campbell, MSD Animal Health – Animal Health

“Martin has a keen interest in the health status of his flock. The health status of purchased animals is well known as they come from two neighbouring flocks. Martin breeds for resilience and aims to reduce losses through disease prevention approach. Concerns around disease are raised with his farm vet and a control plan is discussed. Implementing a flock health plan plays a key role in reducing the impact of disease within the flock. Martin aims to minimise production losses due to sudden death and abortions as well as tackling parasite issues to improve the profitability of his flock.”

Martin’s Vet: Tom Fabby, West vets

“Martin is a very progressive farmer, taking a particularly keen interest in why things happen and is therefore able to take a very proactive approach on his farm. We have a long-standing relationship with the family, having worked closely with Martin’s father and grandfather and this has allowed us to learn what it is that they are trying to achieve on the farm.”