This week as part of our sheep segment, we spoke to an 18-year-old sheep farmer Chloe McGinty, about her venture into pedigree polled Dorset sheep and future aspirations.
Chloe McGinty, Birchill, Barnesmore, Donegal, has always had a love for agriculture, having reared pet lambs and assisted with cattle from a tender age.
The 18-year-old farms on a part-time basis alongside her father, Declan McGinty, as she is in full-time education.
The fifth-generation farmer and her father run a beef and lamb enterprise consisting of approximately 50 cattle and approximately 250 sheep.
They have a mixture of sheep breeds, including 150 Blackface Mountain ewes and 50 Suffolk, Texel, and Cheviot-crosses.
They house ewes at lambing time, bringing these indoors up to three weeks before their due dates.
The family lamb their lowland ewes from March/April usually so that they can turn pairs out to pasture immediately post-lambing. When weather conditions allow. On the other hand, they lamb all their mountain ewes on the mountain from mid-April.
“Once lambs are born, they are let outside again as soon as possible, usually around one to two weeks after lambing, weather permitting,” Chloe told That’s Farming.
They have a selection of rams on-farm, consisting of four Texels, three Suffolks, one Blackface Mountain, one Cheviot, and one registered Dorset.
“We usually put the ram to the ewes the first week in November. However, I put my Dorset ram out to my ewes during the second week in October.”
“One week before putting out our ram, we check and dose all our ewes. Also, at lambing, if we identify any problems, prolapse, bad lambing, bad mothers, little milk, etc., we tag these with a purple tag, so we know them come culling time. We find this a beneficial way of identifying them.”
“On our farm, to achieve a compact lambing, we introduce a teaser ram two weeks before letting our rams out. To note, we only do this to our lowland sheep and not mountain ewes. I did not put a teaser to my Dorsets, as I only got my ram a recently, and I wanted to get him straight out to my ewes.”
In March 2020, Chloe decided to venture into pedigree polled Dorest sheep and acquired six registered ewe hoggets, seven registered ewes, a registered ram lamb and four cross-Dorset ewe lambs.
“I googled more and more about the breed. I liked the facts that they are such great mothers and the good carcass quality. Then, I searched to try and find some for sale close to me. In my area, registered Dorsets are very hard to find, so I imported mine all in from Northern Ireland.”
“I have not attended any agricultural shows with my Dorsets, but in the next year or two, I hope to go to some local shows.”
“The biggest challenge that I have faced is trying to find registered Dorsets in Donegal. I have not yet come across any, so all my registered Dorsets have come from Antrim, in Northern Ireland.”
Chloe plans to study agricultural science and complete the Green Cert when she finishes school.
But for now, the Donegal native is in the middle of her favourite time of year, that being lambing season.
“It is such a special time of the year seeing all the new baby lambs being born. Sheep are a great trade at the moment. They would need to be like this all-year-round to make a good profit because the cost of keeping sheep is high.”
“In a couple of years, I hope to have a full flock of registered Dorsets consisting of over 100 ewes,” Chloe concluded.
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