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Why this farmer followed his heart and changed from sucklers to horses

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Michéal Naughton, with some of his horses on his farm in Carra Bullaun, Loughrea, Co. Galway. Photos: Ray Ryan

Michéal Naughton, with some of his horses on his farm in Carra Bullaun, Loughrea, Co. Galway. Photos: Ray Ryan

Michéal Naughton's flock

Michéal Naughton's flock

Michéal Naughton with square hay bales which he feeds to his stock

Michéal Naughton with square hay bales which he feeds to his stock

Micheal Naughton with his vintage Massey Ferguson35 tractor

Micheal Naughton with his vintage Massey Ferguson35 tractor

Michéal Naughton with one of his horses and the farrier

Michéal Naughton with one of his horses and the farrier

Michéal with his farm dog "Shep"

Michéal with his farm dog "Shep"

Micheal's flock

Micheal's flock

The farrier taking care of one of Michéal's horses

The farrier taking care of one of Michéal's horses

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Michéal Naughton, with some of his horses on his farm in Carra Bullaun, Loughrea, Co. Galway. Photos: Ray Ryan

After switching from sucklers to horses in 2014, Michéal Naughton is delighted to have his first foal born on the farm this year.

Michéal, who took over the 33ha farm in Carra Bullaun, Loughrea, Co Galway almost 10 years ago, now breeds Irish draught horses and sport horses and keeps a large flock of cross-bred sheep.

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Michéal Naughton's flock

Michéal Naughton's flock

Michéal Naughton's flock

“I get the love of horses from my mum’s side,” he says. “Dad always kept beef stock but when I took over and Dad sadly passed away, I found that I couldn’t make any money from beef. So, I sold out the stock and bought my first Irish draught horse, and I’ve now got five.

“If something isn’t working for you, you have to make a change.”

This week is all about animal care on Michéal’s farm as the horses are having visits from the equine dentist and the farrier.

“The farrier is coming to trim their hooves and put shoes on them. They have to be trimmed every six months to keep them right,” says Michéal.

“The shoes come in different sizes and the farrier then measures the shoe against the hoof and forms it to fit using an anvil.

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Michéal Naughton with one of his horses and the farrier

Michéal Naughton with one of his horses and the farrier

Michéal Naughton with one of his horses and the farrier

“Keeping the horses’ hooves in good condition is paramount to their health and wellbeing.

“There’s a lot to know about horses and they require care that other livestock don’t. The dentist will clean and file their teeth and will extract any that need to come out.

“Horses grow ‘wolf teeth’ in their upper jaw, usually between five and 12 months of age. These teeth don’t have any real purpose, but they can interfere with bit placement in riding horses. If the bit rubs off the wolf teeth it can cause soft-tissue damage, resulting in pain.

“Many breeders and farmers prefer to have them removed before they can cause any damage.”

“Mine have already had theirs removed so this week is just about keeping a check on them and making sure they don’t require any further extractions.

“The equine dentist will file their teeth too, keeping them in top shape.”

The first-farm born foal is now seven months and this week Michéal has begun leading him on a rope.

 

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Michéal Naughton with square hay bales which he feeds to his stock

Michéal Naughton with square hay bales which he feeds to his stock

Michéal Naughton with square hay bales which he feeds to his stock

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“I’ve broken the other horses myself, so I’ll do the same with this one. They shouldn’t be broken until they reach three years of age but getting them used to walking on a rope as early as possible is always beneficial,” he says.

“I take a reward approach when training horses. I feel it leads to more obedient, trusting and thriving horses.”

The horses have been dosed for tape worm and fluke this week, so they are winter-ready. Michéal hopes the horses will generate a better income than the beef stock did.

“My new foal should sell for around €5,000 when he’s ready and my sport horses should sell for between €10,000 and €15,000,” he says.

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The farrier taking care of one of Michéal's horses

The farrier taking care of one of Michéal's horses

The farrier taking care of one of Michéal's horses

Michéal’s lambs are fed indoors for the finishing period, in batches of 20, before being sent to the factory.

“Last week I sent off a batch of 20 and they came in at €146 each, which I was happy with,” he says.

“I breed Suffolk-cross ewes with Texel rams and I’m getting good lambs from them. I trialled a few breeds of ram over the years, but Texel are my favourite.

“This week I’m feeding another batch of 20 to have them ready for the next couple of weeks. I feed them in batches like this because I’m short of shed space. This system has been working well for me.”

Michéal has just dosed his lambs for fluke and worms. He says he always has to be vigilant about the sheep’s feet too.

“Foot-rot has been a massive problem for me this year. We’re on marginal ground here and it gets very wet, this time of the year especially,” he says.

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Michéal with his farm dog "Shep"

Michéal with his farm dog "Shep"

Michéal with his farm dog "Shep"

“We had very little grass earlier in the year because of the changeable weather conditions and now the ground has got quite wet already.

“I’m finding lambs a bit harder to finish at the minute, because of this. Footrot isn’t typically a problem this time of the year, but I like to keep a close eye on my stock just in case, so I checked them all out this week while I was dosing them.”


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