Wexford man Matthew Kehoe is striking a balance when it comes to life as both a part-time farmer and a full-time third-level student.
Mr. Kehoe is currently a second-year UCD Animal Science student and also finds time to manage a flock of prize-winning pedigree Jacob sheep.
A special purchase
The farming student hails from a strong Agricultural background and his emergence into the sheep circles is most certainly not a new venture that he has undertaken. The ‘Richards Flock of Pedigree Jacob Sheep’ was established when Matthew was just 9-years-old and this journey started with one rather special purchase back in 2007.
“My Grandad bought me a pedigree registered ewe-lamb from Wicklow. My interest continued to snowball from there. I continued breeding them on a very small-scale right through my school years. ” Matthew explained.
Matthew continued to run close to ten pedigree ewes for many years, but the young farmer always had his eyes securely fixed on expanding the enterprise. The performance of his prolific Jacob sheep, with their easy lambing abilities, excellent maternal traits, good fertility and ease of management, with very little intervention from the farmer, meant that Matthew was not forced to think twice about this decision.
“Last year, I realised we had to get bigger and we wanted to get bigger. We purchased as many Jacob sheep we could find, with the majority coming from UK bloodlines that had an ARR/ARR genotype.” Matthew explained.
With an objective to breed a “good strong, powerful sheep, with all the Jacob breed characteristics”, two rams were imported from Northern Ireland over the course of the past few years and have bred since left a powerful stamp on their progeny.
Now forty ewes dominate the pastures of the Wexford-based farm which comprises of approximately ten acres. An objective to increase the current ewe base to sixty is a target that he wants to hit by 2018.
“We have intentions to close our flock within the next two years and work from there. We expect our lambing percentage to be just under 200%- two lambs per ewes, which can be easily achieved with the breed. We only lost one lamb this year between lambing and weaning.” Matthew explained.
Matthew is an esteemed member of Jacob Sheep Society of Ireland since 2007 and he was elected to the Ireland region committee in October 2015.
“I am trying to help promote the breed and to get as many new members as possible. The breed is continuing to gain traction in Ireland as people are starting to realise the benefits of the breed. They are a very attractive breed, offering proven value to the farmer.’’ Matthew.
Juggling Education with Farming
As Matthew is away in the capital from Monday-Friday, a management programme tailored to suit both his farming and educational commitments have been implemented.
“A few day’s work makes everything a lot easier when it comes to lambing. Everything is sponged and we hope to have 80% lambed within five days at the beginning of January. 17 days later, we may have a couple of repeats that go into February. This all coincides with my college calendar.” Matthew explained.
Matthew started showing exhibits from his flock when he was a tender nine years of age and continues to put his best foot forward, well over one decade later.
He started his showing career on a high note by taking home the Reserve Champion at Tinahely with a home-bred hogget ram at just ten years of age.
While his academic year mainly focuses on his studies, his strives to attend up to and including ten Agricultural Shows during the summer season, both at local and national level.
“Showing is an enjoyable involvement. You can showcase the breed and then, of course, there is the social aspect to it also.” Matthew explained.
Mr. Kehoe has proven himself to be a powerful force to be reckoned with and has remained unbeaten in the Jacob sheep classes at his local show in Gorey, for the past three years.
He also is not afraid to compete at some of the major Agricultural shows in the country and takes a trek from his base in Wexford to attend shows in Mullingar and Tullamore. In the 2017 calendar alone, he has enjoyed tremendous success with his prize-winning flock. He took home the prestigious champion silverware from Gorey, Trim and Moate, this year, along with picking up the Reserve title at Tinahely show. Many other first and second prize-winning rosettes now also take their place in the cabinet.
When asked about his high point to date since emerging so powerfully into the sector, Matthew draws attention to the show success to date, but also something that he would like to happen a little more often.
“I guess the best part is coming home every weekend from Dublin to Wexford to a pen of replacement ewe lambs.” Matthew laughed.
The future continues to shine brightly for Matthew Kehoe’s flock of pedigree Jacob sheep. Satisfied with his life as a part-time farmer and a full-time student, Matthew’s main focus will be on finishing his degree programme, but most certainly has no intentions to put his flock into the shadows.
“Full-time farming just isn’t an option for me as farming is only a hobby. I am considering a career in Ovine Genetics or Genomics, as this is an area that I am hugely passionate about.” Matthew concluded.
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