Farming is engraved in the roots of Sarah Woodmartin’s family; the tradition has been carried on in Ballydoogan, Co. Sligo since the 1780s.
Richard inherited the holding from his father; he now oversees the running of the sheep, suckler and free-range hen enterprise with his wife - Linda (a qualified veterinary nurse), Sarah and her two siblings.
“I could never wait to get home from school straight into my wellies and I was off,” explained Sarah Woodmartin (22).
“I feel extremely lucky to have been brought up on a farm,” she added.
“I have always had a passion for animals and agriculture so I always knew I was going to pursue my studies in this field,” she added.
After completing her Leaving Certificate, Sarah deferred her CAO offer - Animal Science at University College Dublin - for one year.
“I floated between the farm and a local café to muster up the funds before jetting off to the Australian outback!”
She worked on a beef farm and in a wildlife sanctuary for six weeks before travelling north where she remained for a further three weeks.
“I gained so much from this experience; the way of farming over there is so different to home.”
The Sligo native then embarked on the next chapter by beginning her chosen four-year third-level degree programme.
Now in third-year, Sarah will travel to German pig and dairy enterprises shortly as part of her Professional Work Experience (PWE) module. She will gain further experience on poultry, sheep and beef farms across Ireland upon her return.
“I am hoping my placement will help to guide me in the right direction as I am still not fully sure what path to take.” explained the AgSoc member.
Although the 22-year-old is based in the Capital, she returns home to Sligo every week to work on the family farm; she also has a part-time position in a local café.
“I share equal responsibilities to my parents on the farm. I am involved in all enterprises on the farm with sheep being my main interest,” she added.
The home farm comprises of 120-acres, while a 40-acre out-farm is located 2-kilometres away.
The Woodmartins farm 260 cross-bred ewes, 600 free-range laying hens, 25 suckler cows and 15 young stock.
They have recently established a pedigree Simmental herd which is managed under the Knocknarea prefix. Sarah’s pedigree Jacob and Soay sheep are farmed alongside the main flock.
The Sligo farmers have seven pedigree rams - Suffolk (2); Charollais (2); a Texel; a Blue Du Maine and a Belclare.
Ewes are housed according to litter size from scanning results and lamb indoors from March 10th to mid-April.
“Up until this year, we have always let able-bodied ewes - who give birth to triplets - rear their three lambs.”
“All ewes are now rearing doubles and we are rearing their third lamb on ‘ewe two feeders’ or adopting the third lamb onto a single-bearing ewe.”
“We will have more pet lambs but hopefully, we will have fitter ewes for the subsequent breeding season.”
They are aiming to finish all their lambs off grass this year and avoid creep feeding.
In terms of their cattle enterprise, the Woodmartins have a split-calving system.
Heifers are AI’d to easy-calving Angus and Salers sires, while cows are served by a Simmental stock bull; a selection of heifers are retained as replacements.
“In the past two years, we have had to gradually decrease cattle numbers and increase our flock size due to ground conditions.”
Their laying hens are split into two houses of 300 and are replaced every 13 months; they are currently laying at a rate of 86%.
Each house roams on an acre of grassland by day; hens are housed by night where they are fed on a free-range layers pellet and are also provided with trays of oyster shell grit.
All eggs are sold within a 10-kilometre radius of the farm to restaurants, cafés and shops.
The family’s tourism business has been in operation for the past twenty-five years; pre-school, primary and secondary schools groups visit the enterprise during the summer months.
The Woodmartins aim to provide an insight into life on a traditional farm with ornamental pheasants; ducks; bantams; goats; guinea pigs and donkeys.
“The tours are fun and relaxed but educational at the same time.” said the young student.
“We have welcomed international visitors to the farm, along with educational groups from colleges,” explained Sarah.
Looking ahead, Sarah - who is looking forward to progressing in the sector once she graduates next year - is “keeping an open mind and all options open.”
Career-wise, her current interests include animal nutrition and teaching. “I love the vast array of opportunities and careers that the agricultural sector offers,” she admitted.
“There are so many opportunities arising in the ag sector and so much scope for the younger population to explore,” she concluded.
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