Cathal Walsh may have just sat his Leaving Certificate last month, but he is also the proud founder and owner of a multi prize-winning flock of Jacob sheep.
Aged eighteen, the third-generation farmer manages the renowned flock under the ‘Donadea’ prefix in the heart of Naas, Co. Kildare, alongside a large-scale family-run commercial flock and suckler herd.
The sheep breed which is believed to be one of the world’s oldest made a powerful break onto the Walsh’s soil back in 2015 - this is the golden year when Cathal ventured to Tullamore Mart to a sale hosted by the Jacob Sheep Society of Ireland, following the discovery of an advertisement online.
A high-end ram and a well-bred ewe purchased on the day laid the foundation for the younger’s flock which was then officially registered with the society following contact with Paul Colhoun.
“I have always had an interest in sheep and Dad always had them here. I always wanted to get involved in showing, so I guess this was the perfect excuse.” Cathal Walsh told Catherina Cunnane of That’s Farming.
“There is just something extra special about the breed - they are a good sheep all-round; have great feet; are good milkers and good mothers,” Cathal added.
Cathal went in search of animals at the upper end of the market in order to grow his flock; he placed a steady eye on successful breeders that were consistent performers on the show circuit.
“When buying sheep, I look for good feet; good conformation; followed by a focus on breed standards - black nose; white legs; black horns; and good quality wool.” Cathal outlined.
The young Kildare breeder travelled the length and breadth of the country to source stock and also acquired two quality rams from Scotland Resultantly, Cathal is now synonymous with the ancient multi-horned sheep breed and owns a total of twelve pedigree registered breeding females.
The best quality rams are sold on to breeders, with several deals sealed with commercial and pedigree farmers alike, while those that do not make the mark are slaughtered. Ewe lambs from the flock’s best families are retained on-farm for further breeding purposes.
“From day one, I knew it was always going to be quality over quantity for me and the extra effort that was required when sourcing bloodlines have paid off.”
“The quality of the breed in Ireland has improved significantly in recent years. They are concentrating more on better bloodlines, which is important for the breed going forward.” Cathal stressed.
[Tullow Champion 2017]
Cathal made his debut on the show scene in Gorey, Co. Wexford in 2016 and claimed a number of second and third-placings throughout the summer.
“After this, I started to concentrate more on showing and breeding. I bred a ewe lamb and it all took off from there - Donadea Major was unstoppable, as she won champion as a ewe lamb and won Tullamore Champion as a hogget”
The ‘Donadea’ prefix continues to climb the ranks and beat off stiff competition from breeders at agricultural shows dotted across Ireland. The imported Scottish bloodlines have been the major driver of the flock’s outstanding success on the show circuit, as both the rams and their progeny have proven to be a powerful force to be reckoned with.
The first imported ram reached Irish soil in 2016 and claimed the AIB National Livestock Show Jacob Champion title, two months after his arrival.
The second Scottish ram, Dunmor Buck a roo followed hot on his heels and rose to the top of the Jacob classes at NSBA Championships staged in Kilkenny earlier this summer - the ram's third champion rosette so far this year.
“His daughter and sons after following in their father’s footsteps, as they have also won championships. At the last four shows that I have attended this year, I have had the champion and reserve champion”.
“Winning at Tullamore Show for two consecutive years - 2016 and 2017 is my high-point so far. It has made me realise that people are starting to take notice of the flock.”
[ Tullamore Champion 2017 - home-bred Donadea Major]
Looking forward to the future, the Donadea Jacob flock will continue to be a household name, fuelled with quality genetics, driven by an ambitious Kildare breeder.
Cathal will continue to pump the best blood into the genetic mix to push the flock to greater heights and will cross the waters to Scotland - ”the heart of the Jacob” later this year. He monitors the progress of several Jacob flock across the waters through social media and is keen to incorporate some of these practices into his own ovine breeding programme.
“The plan is to increase the flock to 15-20 ewes and keep the quality to the highest degree possible.”
Career-wise, Cathal will receive his Leaving Certificate results next months, with his eyes fixed securely on carving out a career as a veterinary practitioner and continuing his venture as a multi prize-winning sheep breeder.
“Veterinary is something that I have wanted to do since my early childhood earlier. Several of my friends and family are involved in the veterinary profession, so it is a sector that I am very interested in.” Cathal concluded.
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