Lisbeg Farm is a mixed beef, sheep and tillage enterprise consisting of approximately 1,500-acres.
Located in Lisbeg, Eyrecourt, Co. Galway, the farm is run by the Bourns family with the help of seven staff members which are employed on a full-time basis all-year-round.
Sarah and Chris Bourns have recently welcomed a baby girl, Kate, who they hope will be a good help on the farm shortly.
Sarah’s role on the farm is mostly focused on the sheep enterprise; this involves purchasing sheep alongside Chris. The wider Bourns family have deep roots in the showjumping scene. Richard (Chris’s father), Deirdre (Chris’s mother) and Andrew (Chris’s brother) run a horse producing business in Belgium and Florida.
The farm’s sheep enterprise comprises of 1,500 breeding ewes plus replacements. The main breeds are Mayo Mule ewes and home-kept Suffolk-cross ewes.
Sarah highlighted that the interest in Mayo Mules originated with Deirdre, Chris’s mother, who is a wealth of knowledge and information on all things sheep.
Three different breeds of ram are used – Charollais, Suffolk and Vendeen. There are approximately 60 rams on the farm.
Lisbeg Farm operates a March lambing system; they strive to achieve a compact lambing season using a teaser ram, with a view to having all ewes lambing down in a three to four-week period.
Lambs are weaned in early July. A number of the Suffolk and Charollais lambs are sold as replacements for breeding, while the remaining lambs are slaughtered as they become fit.
Lisbeg Farm has had a long association with the Mayo Mule and Greyface Group sale which is being held this Friday, August 23rd and Saturday, August 24th.
The majority of the replacement ewes are bought at the sale. The group was set up in 1984 by sheep farmers in south-west Mayo. The sale has grown from strength-to-strength due to an increased demand for quality breeding stock.
Beef finishing system
Lisbeg Farm operates a beef finishing system with Charolais-crosses, Limousin-crosses and Simmental-crosses.
Weanlings are bought in, some from marts and others directly from suckler farmers; they are then introduced into the feeding system on the farm.
The aim is to finish bulls at less than 16 months of age. Approximately 2,000 head of cattle are finished on the Galway-based enterprise each year.
The farm also has a tillage enterprise; barley, wheat, fodder beet and grass silage are all cultivated on Lisbeg Farm. The farm has quite heavy land which is ideal for tillage production.
The aim is to produce all their own feed; with the exception of buying in certain straights. Grain and fodder beet are also sold to local farmers. Sarah tells me the harvest this year was going very well until the weather broke.
Winter wheat and barley have been harvested and spring barley and wheat are left to cut.
Women in Ag
Sarah explained that she has never felt that being a woman in the agricultural sector has held her back. Up until five or six years ago, Sarah’s main role on the farm would have been looking after the horses.
Then when Chris’ mother, Deirdre, had an accident, which left her unable to work on the farm, Sarah took over the responsibility of Deirdre’s role in the sheep enterprise.
Sarah mentions that initially she probably had to work a little bit harder at sales to get noticed at the ringside while bidding on stock, but she quickly found her feet.
She said she has noticed an increase in the number of young girls attending the sales alongside their mothers and fathers and comments that it is really encouraging to see.
By Rachael Raftery