Ballinstevla, Clogher, Co. Mayo is the home of Ronan Walsh – a 19-year-old farmer and third-level student.
Along with studying and running his own flock, Ronan works as a labourer for a builder and a farm hand/relief milker on a small dairy enterprise.
“Farming is a strong family tradition as it runs on both sides of the family, spanning over four generations.” He told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
“I became involved in farming when I was 5-years-old; at that time, I helped my uncles to fed pet lambs.”
His exposure to farming in early life influenced his decision to study a Level-6 in Agriculture at Westport College of Further Education in Co. Mayo.
The 19-year-old enrolled in the course – which provides students with practical and farm management training – in September 2018, following the completion of his Leaving Certificate.
His main reasons for selecting this course include eligibility for Department grants such as TAMS, the National Reserve and Young Farmer schemes and Stamp Duty exemption.
“I selected this course in order to learn more about farming and the methods that are used to help the farmer in his/her day-to-day routine on the farm.” He explained.
Candidates that undertake the course complete crop production science, animal production science, farm business organisation, and leadership modules.
Other modules include beef production, sheep production, chemical fertiliser application, handheld pesticide application and boom spray pesticide application.
“My main highlights to date include attending farm walks on dairy, beef, sheep and tillage enterprises.”
“I have also visited Aurivo’s animal feed mill in Ballaghaderreen where I gained an insight into its Nutrias animal feed products.” He added.
Ronan said he would recommend this course to anyone who is interested in farming either on a full-time or part-time basis.
“I am applying knowledge and skills gained through the course to assist with the running of my sheep farm; this includes testing and analysing my silage.”
Ronan’s flock comprises of sixty sheep - 95% of which are Mountain Blackface sheep, while Mule-crosses ( a Bluefaced Leicester ram-X-mountain ewe) make up the remaining 5%.
The Blackface Mountain breed is renowned for its mother abilities and hardiness which are his main two reasons for selecting the breed.
“Mules are excellent dams and lambs reach the adequate slaughter rate much quicker than its parents.” He outlined.
The sheep remain outdoors all-year-round and are on grass-based diets but are fed concentrates during the lambing season to ensure optimal body condition score.
Superior ewe lambs born on the farm are earmarked as replacements, while inferior types are culled.
The Mayo farmer also produces ram lambs for slaughter; these are fed outdoors for a period before they are housed where they receive a concentrates, hay and water.
“I try and get the maximum weights of the lambs for slaughter between 40-50kgs.”
“A number of the lambs are also slaughtered by a local butcher in Castlebar for my own consumption,” Ronan explained.
Ronan stressed the importance of having interests outside of farming; he plays soccer with his local club in Fahy, is passionate about set and sean-nós dancing and is a member of Castlebar Macra na Feirme.
He joined the rural youth organisation at the National Ploughing Championships in September; he is the club’s acting secretary.
“Macra is a great outlet for young farmers and young people to get involved in various events like the national talent show amongst others.”
Despite numerous challenges facing the Agricultural sector, Ronan is staying optimistic with his plan – completing his Green Certificate and farming.
“My long-term goal is to visit other farms in Scotland or Wales to learn how they do things. I hope that this experience will help to provide inspiration for my own system.” He concluded.
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