Farm Ireland

Friday 23 March 2018

'New sheep payments are no compensation for lower prices and longer hours'

Ewe lambs thrive well at grass. Stock photo
Ewe lambs thrive well at grass. Stock photo
John Fagan

John Fagan

My Dad always tells me to look forward and never to look back, but having a quick glimpse back at 2016 you need to recognise where things went wrong and where they went right.

The lambing went really well for me this year but the summer was a horrible, wet, muggy mess and it did nothing for lamb thrive.

Every farmer I talked to struggled with this and it was a stark contrast to 2015 where lambs just thrived for fun.

There is nothing any of us can do about the weather except book a holiday somewhere hot.

What I did get right was to separate my lambs out by weight, grouping the smallest ones together and fully shearing them in August.

This took the wet off their backs and turned them inside out. It is something that I will now consider doing every year.

This year I am going to castrate all lambs at birth. I have held back doing this over previous lambings but this year in particular, I found it too slow to finish the ram lambs.

They always need copious amounts of meal to get them off your hands.

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By contrast ewe lambs thrive well at grass and normally need very little to get them away.

I am told that castrating lambs also does wonders for the taste so it's in my interest to keep the consumer happy.


At last I got approval for the TAMS sheep fencing grant scheme and with the weather being so kind I am keen to get it done as soon as possible. I am double fencing some fields and planting new hedges.

I think that creating shelter belts around the farm are vital for sheep and cattle. It's ironic, my father spent his life removing hedges for tillage fields and I'm spending my life putting them back in.

For GLAS I need to get 450 trees planted for the native woodland grove.

The trees need to be certified and planted in rows, two metres apart, and with a distance of one metre apart between the plants within the rows.

It's gas how some commentators on the sheep prices are almost tripping over themselves to run down the sheep price.

It's all doom and gloom apparently.

Yet, like the weather in Ireland, it is difficult to predict prices too far in advance.

And I've yet to see a lower lamb price reflected at the retail counter.

We shouldn't be bullied into taking less for our product and I think there is an element of complacency growing among farmers due to the introduction of the new sheep payment. I knew that this would happen.

We shouldn't let this investment in the sheep industry get siphoned away from farmers to compensate for lower prices, working harder, producing more and getting paid less.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath

Indo Farming