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Keeping the focus fixed on the numbers

Michael Duffy farms at Ballymagowan, Kerrykeel, which is about 30kms north of Letterkenny, Co Donegal. This area is part of the scenic Fanad peninsula, which has Mulroy Bay as a boundary to the west and Lough Swilly to the east. Married to Claire, they have a three-year-old daughter, Aisling.

Michael has an accountancy background and worked offfarm for a number of years, returning in 2007 to partner his parents, William and Philomena, who live next door. They are farming 51ha at present.

The land ranges from new reseeds to some rough grazing. Michael continued working off-farm on a part-time basis until 2013 when he decided to devote himself full-time to farming. The Duffy farm is 100pc sheep, with 319 ewes and 41 ewe lambs being mated in 2013. It is a mid-season lambing flock, with lambing due to begin on March 10.

Belclare rams have been used on the Duffy farm since 2003 to breed replacements, but as the flock has been expanding in recent years, Suffolk cross hoggets were also purchased.

All lambs are sold to ICM Navan via the East Donegal Lamb Producer Group, where Michael is the current chairman. In 2013, over 51,000 lambs were marketed by this producer group. Michael is also the current chairman of the Teagasc sheep stakeholders group.

Tables 3 and 4 contain the latest scanning results, which show 1.88 lambs scanned per ewe mated and 1.31 lambs scanned per ewe lamb mated. The overall flock scanned 1.81 per sheep mated.

Although this is a good scan, Michael is not happy with 5.4pc of ewes that were barren, or the 12.82pc of ewe lambs that were barren given that the ewe lambs averaged 56kg at mating.

Michael is highly focused on technical improvements with his two main objectives being:

* A high-weaning percentage and...

* Getting more from grass.

Over the last six years Michael has focused on improving soil fertility, reseeding, faecal sampling and weight recording of lambs in order to improve flock performance. Some Tyfon has also been tried over the past two seasons.

We aim to keep you informed on farming life on the Duffy farm over the next 12 months through the Sheep Tech section.

Irish Independent