That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Ciarán Mc Loughlin (18), Trim, Co Meath in this week’s sheep farming segment. We discuss his Border Leicester and Ryeland sheep flocks, Ciarán’s Yarn, and wool prices and
“I come from a family where farming is a major tradition. Most of my earliest memories revolve around farming, but stand-out memories would be of shearing times, calving and lambing and days out at shows or sales.
I am a sixth-year student at Dunshaughlin Community College and run a flock of Border Leicesters and Ryelands under the ‘Royal’ prefix.
I breed Border Leicesters as they are highly prolific, are easy lambed, produce superb offspring, both pedigree and in a commercial capacity, with added length, height, character, conformation, and style.
You can cross with rams with any ewe as a maternal sire. I chose Ryelands as a breed in 2018 and never looked back.
They are easy lambed with high lamb survivability versus other breeds, make great milky mothers, are highly prolific and are a hardy breed.
It has a high resistance to footrot and scald and is a low-input breed that commercially or pedigree-wise does not require any more than a grass diet to have great condition and conformation.
You can see this, in particular, when you use it as a terminal sire across other breeds.
Most of my flock are pedigree except for a few cross-breds to showcase the benefits of using Border Leicesters and Ryelands as a sire.
I established Ciarán’s Yarns during the time I spent in transition year at the age of 16.
All my wool for my yarn comes from my pedigree organic flocks in the heart of County Meath.
I set up Ciaráns Yarns as I wanted to showcase the amazing natural woollen products that I could produce from my rare breed flock’s fleeces, which were previously underappreciated.
I had this light bulb moment in the summer of 2020 when I was told about the harsh reality of the value of my premium wool after shearing.
Honestly, I was told that I would be lucky if the sale of my wool would cover 20% of my shearing costs.
So, I decided to keep my high-quality fleeces my sheep produced and find an alternative to my newfound problem.
Over a lot of hard work and planning, this has now resulted in the establishment of Ciarán’s Yarns.
Stockists and online shop
Anyone can purchase my yarn from woollen shops across the country online via my etsy.
My wool is also available in knitwear from designers such as Aoife Long of ‘Along’ and Faye Dinsmore Knitwear. The latter has featured my yarn in Brown Thomas.
My yarns have a range of prices depending on the volume desired and the yarn type itself. All the yarn is of premium quality and worth every cent.
I only use the best fleeces from my flock, which I handpick and sort to ensure I use the best quality fibres.
We try to do as much as we can on-site. I am delighted to say we support other businesses off-site in producing my yarns.
Woollen products and wool as a whole have been losing value and importance in everyday life across Ireland and worldwide.
Coupled with this, people can find cheaper alternatives to this natural commodity which has a knock-on impact on the wool’s value.
It is this underappreciation for Irish wool and the misunderstanding of using Irish wool in products that negatively impacts the price the sheep farmer receives.
I plan to grow my rare breed flocks and expand my flock to meet the demand for yarn and for my pedigree Ryelands and Border Leicesters sheep whilst maintaining the highest of standards for my stock and produce.
Furthermore, I want to complete a third-level degree in the area of animals and science. I still hope to showcase Irish wool, starting with the yarns I am producing on my farm.
All in all, I enjoy balancing school and Ciaran’s Yarns. I have great support from everyone around me, from family and friends to my customers.
Honestly, I am looking forward to being on the other side of the Leaving Certificate at the end of June. I will have more time to focus on Ciaran’s Yarns.
I am looking at careers and courses that incorporate my love for agriculture, business, and livestock. However, I have not finalised anything.
Also, I would like to expand my product range over the next while to add variety to my products for all customers.
I have been honoured and recognised for my work and recently won Meath Enterprise’s Best Start-up Business.
To sum up, the journey that I have had to date from my first lightbulb moment has been hard work, exciting and very enjoyable, all in a mixture together.
I enjoy working with my livestock, new people, existing contacts, woollen mills, and everyone in between. Overall, I am delighted to provide quality woollen products to everyone.
Unique selling point
Everything makes Ciaran’s Yarns different from other businesses as it is all driven by a 16-year-old’s ideas to a now passionate 18-year-old using his very own organic rare breed wool to produce premium woollen products for everyone from the heart of Meath, as well as supporting other Irish businesses along the way.
I am fortunate to say I have had great support from my family and friends, everyone within the wool industry, loyal customers and new ones, as well as other breeders and sheep and wool enthusiasts across the country and world.”
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