Farming

| 10.8°C Dublin

Farming

'My mother in law gave me two pot-bellied pigs, who had 11 piglets and it grew from that'

Close

Alan Chadwick on his farm in Moneygall

Alan Chadwick on his farm in Moneygall

Alan Chadwick on his farm in Moneygall

As a child Alan Chadwick was told he used to act like a clown in class. Now, he says he is turning a negative into a positive in his role as 'Farmer Al', bringing fun into schools, hospitals and nursing homes across the country.

"I love animals - I've spent my life with them - and I love spending time with people, so now I am giving something back in a fun way," Alan says of his new venture, Wooly's Mobile Farm.

"Sadly a number of people have become so far removed from nature, and by travelling around with the mobile pet farm we are hoping to educate and entertain them at the same time."

Originally established in 2011 by Mary Ward and taken over by Alan and his partner Ian Callanan earlier this year, Wooly Farm was far from the minds of the couple when they returned to run a family farm outside Moneygall in north Tipperary five years ago.

Alan had inherited the 36-acre farm from his parents, John and Adelaide, and they departed Dublin for a quiet life in the country to run a small sheep enterprise.

"There were only a few run-down sheds when we returned so we built a house and a new sheep shed."

Close

Alan Chadwick with llamas Ali and Roo at Wooly Farm, Moneygall.

Alan Chadwick with llamas Ali and Roo at Wooly Farm, Moneygall.

Alan Chadwick with llamas Ali and Roo at Wooly Farm, Moneygall.

Alan's brother John runs the original beef and sheep farm several miles away and draws silage each summer for both farms and their father John, in his 80s, still helps out on the home farm.

"I had spent my childhood on my parents' sheep farm and we were delighted to have our own place," Alan says. "Even when I was travelling I would always return home to help during the lambing season."

Alan said the plan was to continue his job as a nurse while also farming on a relatively small scale.

"I commuted to Dublin for the first few years, working with people with intellectual disabilities, but then took more local jobs to be closer to home."

Initially they started out with some 120 ewes, but Alan admits it was tough going, especially at lambing time when it was all hands on deck.

"Sheep take a lot of minding, and when Ian moved here first he hadn't a clue what he was doing. During lambing I used to do the night shifts - I was obsessed with checking them every hour - but then Ian started to help out at night as well. He's a musician so works all hours anyway."

In the early days the lamb ratio was below average using Texel/Suffolk crosses - sometimes as low as 1.4 - and Alan felt the need to improve this by introducing a Belclare ram.

"The numbers started to come up and I then brought in a Blue Leicester ram. Now we are up to 2.1, which is brilliant. Last year we had 16 triplets and one set of quads."

Alan's lambs are sold through Irish Country Meats in Camolin.

Lambing usually takes place in March, but for 2020 it has been brought forward by a few weeks to accommodate the demands of the new business.

"We've had to make quite a few changes since taking over the mobile farm in the spring. One was to bring the lambing forward as otherwise it would clash with the start of the busy season with the mobile pet farm.

"We've also had to reduce our flock to just over 50 so we can house the new animals for the winter."

The latest additions include several llamas, donkeys, ponies and pigs, and Alan says this brood could expand at any time.

Farming Newsletter

Get the latest farming news and advice every Tuesday and Thursday.

This field is required

"It's funny everything happens for a reason. For my 40th birthday my mother-in-law gifted me two pot-bellied pigs.

Piglets

"The sow, who I named Mildred, went on to have 11 piglets - all of whom I named after my father and his 10 siblings - and it just grew from there.

"I'd always dreamt of having a pet farm but never in my wildest dreams did I think it would happen. Then this opportunity came along.

"I had taken time off from nursing (maternity leave so to speak) for lambing, and never went back. This new venture was definitely meant for me."

Alan and Ian now have plans to expand and introduce an open farm. "We are so well located beside the Obama Plaza and my next dream is to have a place where families can relax and those with intellectual disabilities can have a sensory area and also enjoy the farm too.

"To see the faces of both the young and old light up when they see these animals, that is what it's all about.

"The hope is that people will drop in while they stretch their legs as they travel along the M7."

Please register or log in with Independent.ie for free access to this article

Already have an account?


Most Watched





Privacy