Sheep farmer Jerry McCarthy sought to find a solution for after he noticed that his sheep were becoming resistant to the usual showers, doses and pour-ons. The Kerryman also used to travel around the country driving trucks for different business and noticed that sheep everywhere were scratching.
He would see wool on fences and hedges all over the place and he knew that the sheep were losing their wool by scratching their bodies, trying to rid themselves of irritation.
The innovative farmer saw that a man called Neil Fell had started mobile sheep dipping in the UK after returning from Australia and Jerry thought “I could make that”.
The Kenmare native figured that he could buy a truck and get an engineer to convert it into something that he could use as a mobile dipping pool.
Jerry worked closely with Neil and learned from his business model as Neil is hoping to dip 200,000 sheep this year as he completed 175,000 in the latter half of last year alone.
He went ahead and purchased a 2008, MAN truck from the UK and proceeded to present it to a number of engineering companies for conversion – they all turned him away and even said that he was ‘mad’.
Not one to be defeated, he simply took his €130,000 over to the UK and had his bespoke dipping machine created there.
How it works
“If you imagine going into a chipper and you put the chips into the basket and lower it down into the grease – that’s how my system works,” said Jerry, with his rather clear explanation.
“They climb up the back of the trailer and into a 4 X 8 ft cage that holds on average 10 sheep. It’s all hydraulic and we just lower them down into it,” he continued.
While they are in the cage, the sheep are submerged for approximately one minute. Jerry controls the hydraulics from a button on the side of the machine and he will submerge briefly the sheep’s heads two or three times.
Afterwards, the sheep leave the cage and stand towards the front of the lorry for a few minutes while they drain off and they will then leave the vehicle to the left or right, depending on the farm and it’s all over.
“I have somewhere around 20,000 sheep put through the machine since I put the truck on the road last September.”
Jerry will get through about 200 sheep per hour. “I dipped 2,000 lambs in nine hours before Christmas; they were store lambs weighing about 35kg each,” he smiled.
One challenge that Jerry faces with his mobile service vehicle is filling the tank with 3,000-litres of water. The machine itself is fully fitted with pumps so that it can use water from a nearby lake, pond or other water sources.
“A lot of farmers that know that I’m coming, and they prepare ahead by having their water tanks full up for me,” he said appreciatively.
“You can shower 100 sheep on 15-litres of water. I’ve 300 sheep done this morning and I lost 700-litres of water on them animals,” he acknowledged.
It is Jerry’s argument; however, that soaking the sheep will garner the most effective results and that is where the plunge pool has the advantage.
Another challenge for the new dipping business is that when people see the Kerry registration plate, they believe that Jerry won’t go as far north as people might expect, but he says that he will travel anywhere.
“I'm up in Clifden and Westport this week now and it doesn’t matter how big or small your flock is, I’ll get to you alright”, he said with assurance.
It is believed that Tagline Mobile Dipping Service is the only one of its kind in the country. Jerry is also the only commercial dipper in Ireland approved by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Jerry has acted on behalf of the department on a small number of animal welfare cases and he is also Bord Bia-approved, which means that he is entitled to give VAT receipts.
The vehicle also incorporates a tag reader which means Jerry can supply a list of electronic IDs of the treated sheep.
The entrepreneur from Kenmare seems to have tapped into a market with great potential for success. He is already a busy man, rearing a flock of 40 pedigree Texels and 30 Mules.
He lives in Kenmare with his children - Danny (5) and Ava (6) and is currently preparing for the wedding of the year with his fiancée Joanne.
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