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

The deadline for the second age category, 12 years to 14 years, passed last week, with a great response from young writers.

We are delighted to announce the section winner is 13-year-old Michael O’Dowd.

The next age category is for children aged between 15 and 17, with the entry deadline this Friday 30 July.

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  • Why I am glad I had sheep in the last year: by Michael O’Dowd

    It all started out in early 2020 when we got four Texel ewes in-lamb, as a present. We never had sheep on the farm before, so it was all new to us.

    I was looking forward to learning all about them, but I had to learn fast, as they were due to lamb within four weeks. I never realised then how glad I would be to have sheep for the past year.

    After setting up a lambing area and asking my uncle for advice on a few things, we kept a close eye on the ewes. They had seven lovely lambs without much fuss.

    Kept busy

    Lots of my friends were bored during lockdown, but I was kept busy looking after the new flock. It was a nice break from home schooling.

    My neighbour gave us two ewe lambs to rear as pets, which was an added bonus! It was lucky I was off school because they took a lot of looking after.

    The sheep were a great novelty for all the family, as everyone was at home from school and college.

    I learned lots about the different conditions that sheep can suffer from such as orf, twin lamb disease and that they need a lot of foot care.

    I learned lots about the different breeds of sheep and how the Texel breed in particular is very adaptable and suitable to the lowland conditions.

    The Texels are well known for being a very muscular build and have a docile nature and good maternal traits and we could see that clearly.

    Another reason to be glad to have sheep in the past year was a financial one.

    We were lucky, as sheep prices at the moment are at their best that they have been for a long time.

    This year, we got €175 for an early lamb. I was delighted to get €300 for my twin lambs.

    With the good prices last year, we decided to expand the flock a little. The Texel lambs thrived very well and we plan to keep some more of the ewe lambs this year.

    Last season, we borrowed a Texel ram from my uncle and lambing season went well. The lambs are fast growing, lean lambs and, as mentioned, made a good price.

    This year however, as we have bigger numbers, we would like to invest in our own Texel ram for obvious reasons. We had planned to go to a few agricultural shows this summer, but, unfortunately, all these events were cancelled due to COVID-19, so we have to look somewhere else.

    I thought the best place to start was to look in the Irish Farmers Journal.

    Another benefit of having sheep grazing is that they keep the fields nice and clean.

    This has saved us from doing as much topping, spraying and pulling ragwort!

    I also really like being able to handle the sheep myself, as they are not as difficult as suckler cows!

    I have been kept busy during lockdown, learned lots, made some money and enjoyed it all. Overall, having sheep for the past year was great for me, although I’m not sure my neighbours would agree, as they visit them sometimes!