Name - Kieran McDonagh
Age - 18
Farm - Flock of 40 lowland ewes, 150 Blackface ewes and 40 Suckler cows on 150-acres.
The McDonagh’s and sheep shearing go hand in hand, such is their experience and history within the industry.
The family hail from near Corofin in the Tribesman country, where they farm land totalling around 150-acres. It is here that Kieran and his father, Peter, run the family sheep and Suckler enterprise. Only 18-years-old, Kieran has about as much experience as anyone and has been farming for as long as he can remember.
“Between everything, we farm about 150-acres”, Kieran noted.
His family have a rich heritage in not only sheep shearing but agriculture in general, with Kieran’s father, Peter, working himself as a livestock auctioneer. This is where Kieran first developed the interest and admits to harbouring dreams of following in his father’s footsteps.
The Farm -
As mentioned the Mc Donagh’s run both a Suckler and Sheep enterprise on their holding.
They currently calf down approximately 40 Sucklers every year, with breeds varying from Limousine, to Belgian Blue and Charolais. On the breeding front, all cows are put with a Limousine and Belgian Blue stock bull.
“We are calving forty cows on the farm as well” said Kieran.
“They are running with a Belgian Blue and a Limousine bull”, Kieran added.
All calves born on the farm are then sold on as weanlings at local marts. If running a Suckler enterprise were not enough, the family also keep two separate flocks. They currently have a flock of forty lowland ewes, with a further 150 Mayo Blackface ewes.
“We also keep about forty lowland ewes and about 150 mountain Mayo Blackface sheep”, Kieran explained.
The McDonagh’s aim to have all the lowland flock lambed by the end of January. This is done to ensure they can be sold off for earlier markets, in the first two weeks of May. The Blackface ewes lamb from the end of March until April, as they lamb a lot easier and usually by themselves.
“The Mountain types are a lot easier lambed, the lamb outside themselves”, Kieran told That’sFarming’s Kevin.
These lambs are sold off to local marts, even some to where Kieran’s father, Peter, works.
“My father works in Tuam, Headford and Maam Cross as an auctioneer…He also sells in Ballinrobe and Balla the odd time”, the young farmer said.
“He actually sells most of the sheep in Ballinrobe from Wintertime onwards,” Kieran added.
The farming family actually got out of sheep altogether a number of years ago, before being persuaded to return following the departure of Kieran’s brother Shane to College. While out of sheep, they actually kept bullocks for beef, before switching to Sucklers and then back to sheep.
Kieran’s brother, Shane, was also involved in the farm up until recently when he began his own farming venture by taking on some nearby land. He still helps out on occasion, but this generally means that it is now down to Kieran and his father to look after the family farm, with Kieran admitting to doing as much as possible, in a bid to pay his father back for all the hard work over the years.
“My dad works everyday driving a digger, so I do a lot of farm work at home. I don’t like to see dad doing too much”, said Kieran.
The family not only carry out the entirety of their own shearing work but also travel to carry out the work for neighbouring farmers and Kieran recently spending a couple of weeks shearing in Westport, Co. Mayo.
“We do a lot of shearing. We actually used to go up as far as Offaly and down to Westport for a week. We used to go down to Clare as well”, Kieran said.
“My father retired from shearing and my brother gave it up this year, So I was out on my own a good bit this year…The last man standing”, he joked.
The love for sheep shearing is actually not an interest gained from his father, but rather his grandfather.
“My grandfather used to hand-shear himself. He wouldn’t have been taking part in competitions or anything like that, but he used to do his own”, he said.
“When the shearing machines came out, my father and a neighbour went at it and the rest as they say, is history”, Kieran continued.
Background in Shearing -
The McDonagh’s have a huge history within the sheep shearing sector, with his family having always been involved in competing and even carrying out commentating duties at some of the major events.
“We do all of the commentary at the shearing shows. The two of us (Kieran and his father) was actually commentating at the world championships down in Gorey in 2014”, the farmer said.
“We do the all-Ireland, the show in Corofin and the show that used to be in Ballinrobe. We are going up the north next Sunday as well”, he continued.
On the competing side of things, Kieran himself actually took home second place in his maiden year competing.
“I actually came in second place last year in a competition in Kerry, my first year competing”, said Kieran.
This is not where the success ends either, as Kieran’s father and brother are actually all Ireland champions in the sport.
“It’s in the blood”, Kieran joked.
Kieran notes that he has been involved in sheep shearing for as long as he can remember. So steeped is the family history within sheep shearing, that Peter McDonagh was the vice chairman of the Irish Sheep shearing association. Kieran hopes to one day continue in the successful path set before him by his brother and father, by winning an All-Ireland sheep shearing medal in his own right. He also hopes to someday compete for and represent his country, doing what he was born to do, shear sheep.
“That is something I would love to do. There is a big opportunity there,”, he said.
Kieran himself has big plans for the future on a personal side, with the aim of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a livestock auctioneer in his own right.
“It is another dying trade, there aren’t many younger auctioneers coming up”, said Kieran.
He is just after completing his leaving certificate examinations in recent months and will follow up his secondary education by completing a Green certificate in Mount Bellew Agricultural College over the coming months. This will be followed by a six-month auctioneering course, via Tallaght IT, which he will complete online.
“I want to follow in his (My father’s) footsteps”, Kieran noted.
After the completion of his green certificate and the six-month auctioneering course, Kieran plans to get his own flock number or else enter into a farm partnership with his father, though nothing is yet decided.
“It is definitely on the cards (To get a flock number),” said Kieran.
Otherwise, in the short term, Kieran hopes to build up the lowland sheep numbers. He also admits that if he were ever to take over the farm entirely, that he would most likely downsize Suckler numbers and focus more on what he enjoys, sheep farming.
Kieran’s love for the industry is unrivaled and his thirst for success is addictive. When asked what keeps them farming, most reply that it is in their blood, but for Kieran this couldn’t be truer.
“It was bred into us. My brother and I were out farming since we were knee high. We loved it really, it is all we have ever known”, Kieran noted.
“What is for you is for you”, Kieran concluded.
A sheep shearer through and through, Kieran will someday oust his father from both his auctioneering seat and his throne as chief operator on the farm, though Peter would be only happy to see him do so. A young man who harbours dreams of representing his country and winning an all-Ireland shearing sheep, Kieran McDonagh is a man on a mission.
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