Tuesday 22 October 2019

John Fagan

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Crookedwood, Co Westmeath Email:
John Fagan on his farm in Gartlandstown, Co. Westmeath.

John Fagan: Compensate or face farmer exodus from sheep sector 

The most profitable sheep farmers are the ones that select their replacements from within their own flock. It has taken me a long time to get this as I am annually lured into buying replacement mule ewe lambs in Ballinrobe or Maam Cross. They do a good job on them down there, the ewe lambs make great sheep, but they are sadly too expensive, or the real problem is that I don't get enough for the lambs I sell from these ewes to justify their cost.

PROTECTION: Leylandii hedgerows, like this 20ft one seen on a New Zealand farm, could offer great shelter to lambing ewes during the winter

I won't house flock until I need to after hard lessons from last year 

What a difference a year makes. This time last year my cattle had already been in the sheds for two months and as soon as I separated the ewes and rams, the flock was housed. It was a disaster when I look back at it, but at least it's behind me and the hard lessons have been learned. This year, there will be no rush to house the ewes; in fact it is quite likely that I won't have to house my sheep until just before lambing. This is the way things should be.

Body condition a concern as lambing season looms 

Now that January is over the lambing season is fast approaching. If I could fast forward the next three months it would be great, but I think I would rather just be rid of last year's lambs who are eating up valuable grass and costing a small fortune to finish. Luckily I have managed to be disciplined and I have kept the fields close to the lambing shed closed off since last October. This sacred ground should get me over the line until the majority of my ewes start to lamb after St Patrick's Day.