This is Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Frank Fagan. Discusses the farm history of a 900 sheep farming family, their experience with Blue Texels and how using Blue Texel rams in ewe lambs can be a beneficial option for more farmers.
“I am Frank Fagan with my father John in Oldcastle, Co. I am a 30 year old farmer on the outskirts of Meath.
I am the fourth generation to farm here at Cairnbawn and today we lamb over 900 commercial ewes and keep a small number of cattle with the flock.
I farm full time at home and manage 1500 sheep on a neighboring farm. My father still farms and is the plant agent for Irish Country Meats, Navan.
I have a great interest in breeding our replacements and constantly improving the herd. My father used to raise a lot of hill sheep and we accumulated numbers that way.
Eventually we started breeding our own replacements and today all our sheep are Texel-cross sheep.
I have tried to improve our sheep breeds and we manage a closed flock by only buying rams to prevent disease and other problems.
We run Texel rams and more recently EasyCare and Blue Texels in Texel-cross ewes. The goal is to maintain a white-faced medium-sized sheep that replaces itself and produces thick-wooled, shapely lambs for the factory, for breeding to other farms, and for keeping ewes.
We love to produce lambs to suit all markets. We have recently ventured into Blue Texels by acquiring rams from Francis and Jennifer Donohoe of the Johnstown herd in Co Westmeath.
We used Blue Texels rams for our lambs, and this year we slaughtered more than 200 sheep.
Using Blue Texel we have found them to be very easy lambing. The lambs were born hardy and were excellent at standing up and nursing. To be honest, we have never had so few problems with lambing ewes since we started with this breed.
We had a very small number of ewes that required assistance with lambing. We like the idea of using Blue Texels because you still get a well-shaped U-grade lamb from the hogget without any lambing difficulties.
This year Blue Texel-cross lambs made €3.50-4.00/kg live weight, we were delighted by the shops.
Blue Texel rams will always be our number one choice for wearing sheep.
I think anyone lambing ewes should try the Blue Texel. We used other breeds and would not go back.
Why Blue Texel?
- Fertile rams;
- Easy lambing – Suitable for sheep;
- Very durable – Stand up and breastfeed without assistance;
- To produce uniform, consistent batches of lambs;
- Exceptional carcass features – Highest grade – high killing capacity – special weights.
We lamb all our ewes indoors in plastic lamellas and find them to be a very hygienic option for lambing.
We lamb mid-March to mid-April to accommodate grass growth and aim not to feed ewes once on grass.
Plus, we house all the ewes by the first week of December, so plenty of hay is stored for lambing time.
Last year we caught 700 ewe lambs in 15 days, which is the norm for most years.
We manage the lambing season with just ourselves and my partner Ciara, who is my great helper. To run an enterprise of this scale, we need sheep that do not cause too much trouble in this busy time.
The way we sell our lambs varies from year to year. The ewe lambs that we do not keep as replacements are mostly sold privately off the yard.
If the store trades well, we will sell some at this stage, but we will always end up with a large proportion for the factory.
I really enjoy trying to breed excellent ewes and purebred ewes that are easy to breed in large numbers.
To be a successful sheep farmer, you must love sheep, have a good fence and treat them well.
To survive, you need to produce as many lambs per acre for as few euros as possible. It really is a numbers game.
Unfortunately, rising costs are not helping the situation and the prices received this year do not reflect rising production costs. If this continues, there will be no viable farmland and then food shortages will be a problem.
Farming and equipment improvement
Our goal is to run a profitable farm and continue to improve the farm and facilities for the future.
Future plans for the farm are to improve herds and be as efficient as possible. Improvement of fencing and more planting will be the main focus here.
I think agriculture is going through a very difficult time right now, they are blaming us for rising costs and greenhouse gases.
We hope that the general public will soon realize how important agriculture is to the economy and the environment.
The government needs to pay attention to how carbon neutral our farms are, because every farm enterprise sequesters so much carbon.
Instead, we take the blame for methane emissions because agriculture is an easy target. “If there was no agriculture in this country, the economy would collapse, and it’s time for the government to understand that.”
On sale this Saturday
The Irish Blue Texel Society will be holding their second society sale of the year at Athenry Mart in association with Mart Eye on Saturday 17th September.c2022.
A “large” selection of shearling rams and ram lambs are cataloged for sale.
The next sale of the Irish Blue Texel Sheep Society will be held at Carnew Mart on September 30thc2022.
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