Aisling Wilson farms one of Ireland’s only flocks of Valais Blacknose sheep with her partner, Eddie McLaughlin, in North Co. Dublin.
The part-time farmers acquired two foundation females at Beatties’ Valais sale in July 2018 before they purchased another female from Brian Mathews’ Quarrmount flock, three months later.
Their newly established flock now consists of six Blacknoses; three in-lamb ewes, one ram, one ewe lamb and one ram lamb.
“Our first in-lamb ewes are due at Christmas time – the first one is actually due on Christmas Day. Christmas will be very exciting this year.” Aisling told Catherina Cunnane - That’s Farming.
“I found the Valais Blacknose breed through Facebook - I stumbled across a photo of them and fell in love instantly.”
“I never thought Eddie would agree to buying any, but I don’t think anyone can resist their charm once you see them.” she laughed.
Eddie – who hails from a sheep farm in Malin Head, Donegal – and Aisling farm on a part-time basis – they are both employed by White’s Agri, independent agri merchants.
They have chosen the breed – which originates in the Valais region of Switzerland – for their ease of management, as well as their docile nature.
“They are the cutest sheep in the world - they would remind you of a big dog! They each have their own individual personality and love human contact.”
“Most sheep run away from you when you walk into a field, but these run towards you,” explained Aisling, who spent her childhood at a horse livery yard.
“When you meet the sheep in person, you see how friendly and inquisitive, they are. They are so much bigger than other breeds of sheep, but you don’t really realise that until you see them,” Aisling explained.
Aisling enjoys the outdoors and has always had an interest in farming from a tender age. "If I'm ever having a bad day, all I need to do is go out to my sheep and they cheer me up instantly."
"If I go out and sit with them, it’s not long before one of them comes over and lies down beside me for a cuddle."
"Their wool is incredible, it is lovely and soft and can grow to 12 inches long - they need to be shorn twice-a-year to keep them comfortable."
Looking ahead, the young farmers hope to increase their flock to approximately twelve Valais Blacknose ewes.
“After that, we will start selling them. I would also love to be able to start making different things from their wool and selling it - I need to learn how to do that first, though.”
“Valais Blacknose sheep seem to becoming increasingly more popular the whole time with the demand for them even higher now than when we first got them last year."
A visit to the 'home of the Blacknose' to see the breed in their natural habitat, roaming around the Alps is on Aisling's bucket list. "I’m hoping Eddie will pick up on my hints someday soon," she concluded.
For more information, follow Aisling's Instagram.
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