John Fagan: We're a far cry from the days when a pen of lambs could buy you a motor!
"When I started farming I sold seven lambs and bought a good second-hand Mini Cooper, took the girlfriend out to the pictures and the rest is...
"When I started farming I sold seven lambs and bought a good second-hand Mini Cooper, took the girlfriend out to the pictures and the rest is...
Look busy, the Chinese are coming.
The most profitable sheep farmers are the ones who breed their own replacement lambs and don't...
Fair play to the ICSA and Sean McNamara for standing up for sheep farmers and resisting the...
I was hoping for the usual 'Leaving Cert weather' so I could make mountains of silage and haylage, but I expect the exam results will be better this year...
I don't know which debate is currently more absurd - the climate change debate in Ireland telling people that reducing the intake of Irish agricultural produce is an effective way of saving the planet, or the now farcical Brexit debate, which is detrimental to one's ear drums.
I took away the rams at the end of November, meaning my lambing will finish towards the end of April 2019. That's a bit later than normal, but it's a reflection of the changing times we live in.
Winter is coming, or it has arrived depending on what part of the country that you are in. In fairness, it has been a lot easier than last year and is a welcome relief to both livestock and farmers as housing has been delayed significantly compared to other years.
I've been busy getting the flock ready for the breeding season. I let the rams out on October 22 so lambing 2019 should kick off around on March 15-17.
It's the time of year when sheep farmers start to think about when they want lambing 2019 to start.
Farewell to the winter and spring from hell. That wasn’t a lot of fun. We all have our stories to tell and it will live long in my memory.
What a week we had coming into March. I am physically and mentally exhausted in the aftermath of the 'big snow'. I actually think I am in shock from it.
Lambing season is about to take off so you have to get into the zone and snap out of the winter doziness.
Storm Eleanor gave us a reminder that it's a long time until June 1 and the start of our official 'summer'.
Compliance, compliance, compliance is the reality of farming in the EU. What annoys me about it...
The collapse in lamb price is very disheartening for sheep farmers. And in the light of the €100 million Brexit fund for the beef industry it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the same should not be sought for the sheep industry.
Lambing is now drawing to a close and it was a pretty success-free and easy lambing season for me. It wasn't without it problems, mistakes made, lessons learned, but a walk in the park compared to last year.
It's so far so good with lambing. The later lambing date is really suiting my farm. I am lambing the majority of the ewes outside and the triplets and singles are inside. I could not ask for better conditions which are in stark contrast to last year's apocalypse which was like an Antarctic trek with Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean.
Lambing is just about to kick off here and I am glad that I left it that bit later. It's almost the calm before the storm amidst the storms. March has always come in like a lion and generally goes out like a lamb and judging by the weather forecast this week it seems the weather gods are looking somewhat favourably on me this year.
If you want to make lambing a success, preparation is key.
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.
When I headed to Spain in May for a break I had no idea that I would be taking the weather back with me.
'Don't cast a clout till May is out' is an old saying that my father often reminds me about each year when we're thinking about making silage or making decisions on how much silage we should make.
Parachuting mandatory electronic tagging of factory lambs on top of farmers without first consulting them is a text book way of how not to bring about changes in sheep farming.
Spring wouldn’t be spring in Westmeath without the annual Angus sale at Gigginstown House.
We survived Storm Ophelia and thankfully we weren't too badly hit.
I am letting out all the rams this week, and so begins the countdown to lambing 2018.
It's the time of year when the focus begins to switch towards lambing 2018. It's time to get your sheep in shape for the breeding season and keeping the basics right generally leads to a successful lambing season.
We hear about a labour shortage all the time in the dairy sector but it's safe to say that it is across the board in farming.
We're getting finished with some TAMS fencing jobs around the farm and I want to get them done and dusted, get the paperwork in order, and apply for payment.
THE BEEF producing giants of South America are in the frame once again, with a possible Mercosur deal back on the agenda in Brussels and concern mounting over low-cost meat flooding from the Pampas and Pantanal onto the British market.
I never thought I'd say it but it was great to get the rain. The six-week drought punished my silage ground to the extent that it is not as heavy a crop as I would have liked.
Lambing is over and the tidy up begins. I hate leaving the place in a mess post-lambing as I like to leave everything back in its place ready for next year as soon as possible after the last lamb drops.
Lambing was slow to get started but when it did start the place erupted. There were lambs popping out everywhere.
It's hard to believe that another lambing season is about to kick off.
The ewes scanned well at 1.9 lambs per ewe and I separated and condition scored them into their various groups based on the amount of lambs they are carrying. I got the silage tested and at 65 DMD, it's just about good enough to keep them ticking over. I am gradually introducing a coarse ration mixed with silage.
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.
November is generally a quiet time of the year for me on the farm. The last of the lambs are gradually coming fit and it is good to see light at the end of the tunnel as I move to clear them out.
The autumn is really setting in now and you can really feel the chill in the air. The final nail in the coffin will be when the clocks go back next week - then it really hits home.
There's a lot of permutations and combinations that need to be considered at this time of year when it comes to making a decision about lambing date.
The summer of 2016 will definitely stick in my mind as a summer where nothing really went to plan. The weather has been all over the place, stifling lamb thrive and hampering every farm job from hay making to harvesting.
The summer is moving along fairly fast - I just wish that lamb thrive would move along at that same pace.
With the silage cut, the sheep shorn and slurry going out, the last of the big jobs of the summer are nearly done.
The first of June has come and gone. For me this date is the day the weight of worrying about grass and the woes of spring are lifted from my shoulders.
Just when you think things might get quiet on the farm post lambing the weather, good or bad, always manages to keep farmers on their toes. I foot bathed and dosed all the lambs for nematodirus and despite the cold weather they seem to be doing quite well.
What a week I have just had. Sometimes I had to pinch myself to really believe that this was all happening. Before I knew what was going on there were celebs and weather forecasters all mucking in on the farm. To cap it all, Ivan Scott broke a world record shearing a sheep in my shed.
I'm writing this article at 3am just back from the lambing shed. It is allowing me just a period of calm amidst the lambing storm that is taking place.
As election fever grips the country, what I call 'preparation fever' for lambing is gripping the farm. I am now only a few weeks away from the beginning of lambing. I have been preparing for this since last July so I find I can get a bit edgy at this time of year.
As the flood waters begin to recede there is thankfully a noticeable stretch in the evening.
Generally I like to get the sheep housed by December 15 at the very latest.
Now that the rams are out we are entering what is a quiet time of year on the farm. I'm running about one ram to 30 ewes. I find that plenty of 'ram-power' along with good conditioning in the ewes is essential for a compact lambing.
The priority for me in September is to get the flock ready for the breeding season and offload as much stock as possible in the run up to the winter.
Not only is my mind focusing on the preparation for the upcoming breeding season for 2015 but I am also planning for the winter ahead. The biggest challenge to any farming system is getting through the winter as cheaply as possible.
Unfortunately I couldn't make it to the sheep event in Athenry as the spectacular price drop in the lamb trade quickly focussed my mind on the job at hand.
The pressure is off to some extent as the silage and shearing is all wrapped-up. The silage was cut in perfect conditions and I managed to get a 24-hour wilt on it. I find that 24-hours in dry conditions is an ample amount of time for grass to wilt.
Ned Morrissey farms 370 ewes on his 30-hectare farm at Dunhill, Co Waterford. At roughly 13 ewes/ha, it's an intensive farming system by any standards. What is intriguing about his system is that he does it without housing most of his sheep and lambing his ewes outdoors apart from the triplets and singles.
At last the weather seems to have normalised and that cold harsh blast has finally moved on. At my recent STAP meeting we could separate the farmers who had grass problems into two groups, those that had not reseeded in recent years and those that had.
As the lambing for 2015 draws to a close I can only reflect on what has been a fairly successful season.
March having come in like a lion is certainly leaving like a lamb. Spring has been good to sheep farmers although we could do with a bit milder weather to get the grass moving around the place.
Infection was the biggest killer of lambs for me last year. Watery mouth and joint-ill from a build up of bacteria in the shed frustrated my best efforts to save as many lambs as possible.
Underfed ewes are one of the biggest sources of worm infections in sheep flocks, according the latest Scottish research.
The countdown to lambing for 2015 has begun. Only four weeks away from the due date and no matter how much you think you are prepared for the first arrivals and the beginning of lambing, sheep always somehow manage to scupper any organized plan.
How fast time goes; it seems like it was only last month when I was writing up my first article of 2014 and now it's 2015.
As breeding season is draws to a close, all the rams are being removed and given a health check. It has been a busy time for them and they need some TLC so I'll house them and feed them up in a sheep version of the Hilton.
There has been a lot of reaction to my article last week in relation to the high cost of the new trailer test. It seems a lot of people are also finding it quite expensive and overwhelmingly bureaucratic.
October has been generally a quiet month for me on the farm and I find that it is a good time of year to catch up on office work that can too often get put on the long finger.
I bought a foreign holiday home in Spain and started to rent it out last year. Do I have to pay tax on the rental income even though the income is being earned outside the State? If so, what rate of tax should I pay and how do I go about paying it?
I'm planning to rent out a property I have just inherited. It could do with a bit of a makeover. Can I write off the cost of the makeover against my tax bill on rental income if I do up the place before I rent it out?
September is generally a busy month for me, but getting through jobs before the onset of winter has been fairly straight forward with the fine weather.
With my Ice Bucket Chall-enge now completed, the countdown to the breeding season has begun and I have been busy getting the flock in shape. I am grazing my thinner ewes ahead of the fatter ladies to give them a chance to improve their condition score.
With the silage and haylage made, shearing done and lambs weaned, all the big jobs of the summer are now over. All that remains to be done is topping which I should have finished off this week.
Grass growth has been exponential on the farm for the last month. Last year, the final loads of hay were still coming in from France. This year, I've already had the topper out as grass in some fields is getting ahead of my sheep and cattle.
This time of year on the farm is generally a quiet time. Lambing is over and all my ewes have been dosed, dagged and foot bathed and all lambs have received their first dose of the year.
As lambing is now drawing to a close I have just 20 ewes left to lamb from just under 1,100. It was a busy few weeks but generally speaking it went fairly well.
After getting off to a rocky start, lambing is now in full swing and going well. The first lamb that was born here got devoured by a fox, so things could only get better.
Let's start with the controversial stuff and get it out of the way – I am somewhat dismayed that there is disappointment in farming circles that the sheep grassland payment is being merged into the single farm payment (SFP).
Now that the holidays are over and I have failed miserably to keep any of my New Year's resolutions, it's time to get things in place for lambing in 2014.
I had my Bord Bia inspection, which went really well. The letter they sent out in advance of the inspection highlighted areas that I needed to attend to and was very helpful. Now that I can see the benefits in terms of getting paid for being quality assured, my initial scepticism of the whole process has eased.
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.
October 4 might have served as D-Day for the Seanad but it also marked the day my rams joined the ewes for the first time.
Schmallenberg: to vaccinate or not to vaccinate? This is the question that has been going through my mind over the last few weeks as I prepare my ewes for the next year.
With the shearing done and the silage cut, my lambs are gradually getting fit. However, it's happening a lot slower than last year.
Now that the silage is cut, the last remaining 'big job' of the summer is to get the sheep shorn. I think that this year I will leave it as late as possible. Normally I would be rushing to get it done earlier but there is no real benefit to pestering the ewes just when their lambs are beginning to thrive.
The grass growth has stabilised somewhat on the farm and I have been able to stop meal feeding the ewes and lambs, which has come as a huge relief.
The lambing is coming to an end and not a minute too soon. It has been a long, tough year with mortality rocketing on even the best managed farms.
Never has there been a more apt description for March as the month that came in like a lamb and out like a lion. The difficult weather is making lambing a very challenging, tiresome and expensive time for me on the farm.
What a difference a bit of dry weather makes, and it could not have come at a better time with my lambing season now in full swing.
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.
It's coming to the end of the grazing season and I am busy trying to get the ewes housed. It is important to make sure that they are housed dry, which is proving to be a tricky task.
At this time of the year the main focus is on getting ready for lambing 2013. Going through the ewe lambs, we picked off about 200 or so that look like they will be fit to go to the ram in November.
Sheep shorn, silage cut and lambs weaned. Normally all these crucial tasks would be completed by the first week in July but, like everything this year, I am behind schedule.
Farmers are facing a liver fluke epidemic, with infection levels in sheep doubling since last year, while cattle farmers are also experiencing serious difficulties.
TRADE was brisk overall during the past week, with fairly substantial numbers for sale in the ring, but prices were correspondingly down slightly across the board.
STOCK in the marts have been of mixed quality, with a noticeable improvement in the meal-fed types compared to the plainer cattle.
A CANNY Cork investor has managed to realise a profit of ?1.2m by selling a farm he bought just last year for ?3.1m.