Going down a different route
Published 10/02/2016 | 02:30
The husband and wife team of Gordon and Yvonne Johnston, from Tyrrellspass in Co Westmeath, former winners of the top accolade several times, were edged into the runners-up position in the Vendeen Show Sheep Flock of the Year 2015 awards.
They operate a low cost, grass-based system, where attention to detail is primary, and overall quality the target. It has become a winning formula for the Johnsons who were the 2014 Zurich Farming Independent Sheep Farmer of the Year winners.
The construction of the M6 motorway across the midlands, initiated nearly 15 years ago, played a major role in shifting their farming from Charolais and Limousin sucklers to a mix of Pedigree Vendeen, Lleyn and Texel sheep.
"The construction of the road started in 2003. It went through very close to the cattle yard - the silage pit was actually 50ft over the road. The construction was in the middle of the farm and it was very hard to manage the cattle, so we got out of sucklers. The sheep were easier to manage," says Gordon.
Yvonne adds: "At the time it was with the intention of returning to the sucklers when the road was constructed."
Instead the cattle shed became a wintering shed for the sheep, and the necessary handling facilities were put in place and they have never looked back.
The pedigree Vendeen are exhibited at the agricultural shows, winning the Vendeen Show Flock of the Year a number of times and their performance is recorded for flock improvement.
"I like sheep now. They work very well on this place and Yvonne is very fond of them. It has worked well and we have no intention of going back to cattle at this stage in our lives," says Gordon.