Young Farmer: Introducing Ciarán Sheelan, the 23 year-old who not only trains working dogs, but has been farming sheep ever since he could walk!


On this week’s Young s Series, Kevin spoke with Louth native Ciarán Sheelan on his life in agriculture.

Young Farmer: Introducing Ciarán Sheelan, the 23 year-old who not only trains working dogs, but has been farming sheep ever since he could walk!

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On this week’s Young s Series, Kevin spoke with Louth native Ciarán Sheelan on his life in agriculture.

Ciarán is a 23-year-old sheep farmer who hails from the Cooley Peninsula, in the wee county of Louth.

Ciaran was born and raised on a farm which deals primarily in hill sheep. Here he helps his family run a farm of over 140 ewes.

“Commonage would make up the big part of the farm...It’s a family farm but I would be involved a lot” said Ciaran.

Together with his family, Ciaran helps farm over 80 mainly Mayo Blackface horned ewes, with a further 60 crossbred cheviot x Blackface ewes also.

“We have tried Lanark and Perth types and their crossed in the past but find the mayo blackface is best suited to us due to her ability to produce lambs on poor ground”.

Their stock is divided into two flocks, the extensive flock (Black Face ewes) which are breed pure and also crossed to produce replacements for the intensive flock, the crossbred ewes. They try to maximise as much output from the crossbred ewes as this is where they make most of their profit selling forward Suffolk X store lambs early in the year and then selling the ewes lambs in our local “Cooley sheep breeders sale”.

This means there are many daily chores to be carried out, such as checking sheep, dosing, foot care and many others. Ciaran also helps out neighbouring farmers when needed, whether that be shearing or herding sheep for them. This means he is always kept going and on his toes.

Interest in Ag:
Ciaran has literally just received a degree in Animal Science from University of College in Dublin.

“I always had an interest in animal production and breeding and grassland management. I also always had an interest in farming, which is why I went down that route”, he said.

“I just had a talent for it(agriculture), he added.

Ciaran and his brother Oisin also keep and train working border collie sheepdogs. To date, Ciaran has already successfully trained and sold two dogs.

"I’ve just sold a fully trained dog, which has helped free up space for the two pups I have coming on at the moment” said Ciaran.

“That would be a big part of what I do. Working dogs are essential, especially with having sheep in commonage. I wouldn’t attempt to do anything without them”, he said.

Future:
Ciaran also works part-time as well as working on the farm as much as he possibly can. He hopes to soon be able to get a job which is tied to his Animal Science degree. With regards the future, he hopes to soon get his own herd number, whilst also renting out some land for himself.

“We run two flocks at the moment....There is really a good lot of work as it is”, he said.

He plans to always stick to sheep, with the family being limited to just that seeing as they farm mostly commonage areas. He has a great passion for hill sheep production and it’s what he is most skilled at. Ciaran is an IFA member but also is heavily involved in a recent locally-led scheme application for the Cooley Uplands.

“I was involved in our own locally-led scheme, here in the Cooley Peninsula. I was trying to get funding and was heavily involved trying to get the application together for that”, he adds.

He would love to someday to own a large farm fit for a couple of thousand ewes. He admits though, with a chuckle, that this is only a dream. The family do plan on increasing their crossbred flock in the coming years though.

Challenges:
Upon entry to the industry, Ciaran did spot a few challenges facing many young hill sheep farmers like himself. He noted that with the way payments are structured, that land prices are artificially high. He said this is because people are keeping land just for payments.

“It stops land from changing hands with land just kept for payments”, he says.

On a whole Ciaran says the age profile of sheep farmers remains a concern within the sector. He says there is not an adequate number of young people entering the sector, and learning the skills needed to farm in hill areas.

“It’s a concern, the age of sheep farmers...without younger people coming in” said Ciaran.

Ciaran also said that although the high nature value farming provides a lot of public goods, they don’t receive the recognition for our produce or support they deserve.

“We’re getting lost in the system”, he exclaimed.

“I think the main problem is that we need more publicity and recognition of what we produce. That would help the sector an awful lot” he added.

Advice:
Ciaran had a few words of wisdom for those looking to follow his lead into the sector.

“Don’t get caught up buying the expensive sheep you see at a commercial show and sale” he warned.

Ciaran said before any decision is made, one should always make a plan. He said First to get as much experience on other farms as possible saying it great to see other ways of doing things.

“You have to make a plan. “You have to plan five or ten years down the road if you want to succeed. You have to be a multi-tasker”, he stated.

“I would just tell them to go for it...You’ll find out soon enough if it is for you or not”, he said.

“You have to plan five or ten years down the road. You have to be a multi-tasker”, he stated.

Although the hours are long and as Ciaran admits there is plenty of work, but he thoroughly enjoys every minute of it. A man fresh out of college, but not fresh into the sheep industry. Ciaran is involved all things sheep and is surely one to be involved for many years to come.

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