This year the IGA sheep farm walk supported by Mullinahone Co Op took on a different approach where the event was held virtually across our social media channels. Across three days in mid-August we re-visited three of our previous host farmers; William Hutchinson, Ned Morrissey and John Bell. Each day a series a video releases showcased each of our host farmers and gave an overview of their sheep enterprises with a focus on how their farming system has progressed since they previously hosted an IGA farm walk. Interactions from over 46,000 people throughout the three days emphasised the appreciation that we have for each of our host farmers and the work they put into running sheep enterprises, year in year out.
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Farming in Kells, Co. Kilkenny, 2011 Host Farmer, William Hutchinson and his family, farm 120 ha of owned land with a further 27 ha leased in an adjoining block. Since 2012, there have being two major changes to the farm system. The move towards the Easycare breed and the introduction of dairy heifer contract rearing. William lambs approximately 550 ewes plus 150 ewe lambs in a combined commercial and pedigree sheep system. The videos released throughout the day showed how William is currently trailing the inclusion of forage crops and alternative forages for finishing lambs. William has sown chicory, plantain and red clover to identify options to provide palatable crops to finishing lambs and reduce worm burdens. He explained, dry springs at sowing have compromised the crops and he feels that going forward autumn sown crops might yield better results on his farm. He has had success with the hybrid brassica, Redstart, which he sows in April and begins to graze in mid to late June with the heaviest ram lambs. Three to four grazings are completed with ram lambs drafted off the crop to slaughter, a further grazing is taken in February with pregnant ewe-lambs prior to sowing the field to a spring cereal.
IGA Sheep Event 2020 William Hutchinson Intro
IGA Sheep Event 2020 William Hutchinson Mixed Species Swards
IGA Sheep Event 2020 William Hutchinson Lamb Finishing Redstart
IGA Sheep Event 2020 William Hutchinson Ram Sales
IGA Sheep Event 2020 William Hutchinson changes to the sheep system
Ned Morrissey, our 2015 host farmer, is farming with his family in Ballybrennock, Dunhill, Co. Waterford. Ned farms a mixed sheep and tillage enterprise on approximately 100 owned acres in addition to a further 500 rented acres, which is primarily used for tillage. There are a range of crops grown on the farm including winter barley, winter wheat, spring barley, spring wheat, fodder beet and maize, although this can alternate from year to year. The sheep enterprise, based on the 100 acre owned farm block, is run as a mid-season lamb production system. The flock consists of 450, mainly Suffolk X Belclare, ewes which lamb from mid-March onwards. Ned explained how outdoor lambing of his twin bearing mature ewes works successfully on his farms and helps to reduce the overall labour requirement at lambing. Throughout the grazing season the main grassland area is stocked at 13 ewes/ha with a weaning rate of 1.6 lambs/ewe being regularly achieved. Grassland management is a top priority with a strong emphasis placed on utilising as much grass within the diet as possible. A paddock system and a planned reseeding programme in conjunction with the inclusion of fodder beet, for ewes in mid-pregnancy, helps to maximise the use of grass on this farm. Ned introduced us to his son, Eamon, whom he has gone into partnership with in recent years and explained the importance for allowing the next generation to become more involved in the running of the farm.
IGA Sheep Event 2020 Ned Morrissey Intro
IGA Sheep Event 2020 Ned Morrissey Sheep System and outdoor lambing
IGA Sheep Event 2020 Ned Morrissey Out Wintering System using Beet
IGA Sheep Event 2020 Ned Morrissey Lamb Finishing
IGA Sheep Event 2020 Ned Morrissey, Changes to the system, Farm Partnership
Achieving high output from a grass-based system in Co. Westmeath
John Bell is farming on the outskirts of Castletown Geoghegan, Co. Westmeath and was the host of our 2017 IGA Sheep Farm Walk. Running a sheep only system based on 42 ha of grassland John manages a flock of 500 ewes and 140 replacements stocked at 14 ewes per hectare. With the high stocking rate on the farm good grassland management is at the forefront of John’s system. With good levels of soil fertility attention was turned to grazing infrastructure where John divided up the larger areas on the farm to create a paddock system. He explained to us the benefits of introducing a paddock grazing system and the return on both animal performance and total annual grass grown that he has seen since. Temporary fencing is also used during the main grazing season to achieve further grazing divisions. John has engineered an economical and farmer friendly way of creating these paddock divisions using posts and reel which he cleverly demonstrated to us. One of the key aspects of John’s farming system is keeping things simple with an aim of making the farm labour efficient, as much as possible. Whether it’s the feeding of ewes in late pregnancy, lambing, drenching or the weighing of lambs throughout the season John isn’t afraid to ask for help when it’s needed and believes in being organised in advance in order to make the most of people’s time when getting big jobs done on the farm; as they say ‘fail to prepare and prepare to fail’!
IGA Sheep Event 2020 John Bell intro
IGA Sheep Event 2020 John Bell Grazing Management Paddock system
IGA Sheep Event 2020 John Bell Temporary Fencing
IGA Sheep Event 2020 John Bell Ewe Flock
IGA Sheep Event 2020 John Bell Changes to the system, lambing ewe lambs later
IGA Sheep Event 2020 Summary Fiona McGovern