Catherina Cunnane, That’s Farming editor, in conversation with Devlin Farm Life, along the Wild Atlantic Way, Devlin North, Killadoon, Westport, Co Mayo (Louisburgh area), in this week’s sheep segment.
Veronica Mannion discusses their 70-ewe farm, their self-catering accommodation’s international appeal and working with nature by using solar PV to generate electricity, growing fruit and veg and creating their own compost.
“Myself and Richard, my husband, along with our two teenage children, farm traditional Mayo Blackface sheep with the help of two border collies, Rocco and Toby.
It is a sustainable and eco-friendly farm; we are committed to living lightly.
We started farming as toddlers, standing in the gap. Richard’s family are seventh-generation farmers in the Killadoon area.
He did not inherit the family farm but purchased land adjacent to his family’s farm. He wanted his family to grow up in a farming environment and lifestyle.
I am originally from Aughagower, 10kms from Westport town. My father inherited it from his father. My family have been farming since 1800.
Richard’s earliest memories revolve around getting up early to find newborn lambs before my brothers.
Mine is running down to the barns to see if my cow had calved; my siblings and I had our own cows.
Richard worked for many years in a pharmaceutical company in Westport, and he took early retirement in 2011. Meanwhile, I run the self-catering accommodation Devlin Farm Life from March to December.
Delvin Farm Life
We farm and run a holiday rental on our 70-ewe farm while rearing our two children.
Richard runs the farming side. I have become more involved as our children have gotten older. I help with lambing, dosing sheep, shearing, and loading when bringing sheep to the factory.
We farm Blackface Mountain ewes, which we run with a Border Leicester ram, to produce Greyface lambs. We have ventured into these breeds as they are hardy and prolific and make good mothers.
The ewe lambs have the hardiness and mothering qualities of the Blackface Mountain breed and profligacy of the Border Leicester.
Lambing takes place outdoors in April to take advantage of grass growth and the spring. To achieve a compact lambing period, we focus on flock health and use the ‘ram effect’.
We breed our replacement blackface ewe lambs from our best ewes. These ewe lambs spend the first summer on the hill with their ewes.
We breed replacement blackface ewe lambs from the best ewes. We use a Border Leicester ram to produce greyface (Blackface Border Leicester-cross) from the remainder of the ewes.
Furthermore, we sell greyface ewe lambs for breeding. We have five farmers who buy small numbers of ewe lambs from us.
Some buy from us every year, while others buy when they need lambs to supplement their own replacement numbers. On the other hand, we finish wether lambs and send these to Dawn Meats in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo.
I am most passionate about flock health. The continuous improvement of flock health makes the job of farming easier. An important part of this is record keeping and culling problem sheep.
We are also proud of our record with Bord Bia. My responsibilities include the care of the animals, the soil, and the environment. Safety is the priority on our farm.
Devlin House is a detached property on the same site as the farmhouse we have designed and decorated with the same care we give to everything.
It sleeps up to five people in two bedrooms. The master bedroom features a king-size bed and a walk-in wardrobe.
It has free high-speed Wi-Fi and a smart TV, as well as a very well-equipped kitchen and comfortable furnishing, making this a home from home.
On arrival, guests receive a generous welcome pack, including freshly baked scones, homemade jam, and free-range eggs.
The windows look west to mesmerising views of a beach and the ever-changing Atlantic Ocean. Sea swimmers will love the local safe, sandy beaches – Barnabaun and Killadoon beach are a ten-minute walk, and a short drive brings you to Cross and Thallabawn.
Walkers can literally start at the door; a 20-minute hike up Killadoon Hill rewards you with glorious views, famine fields and fairy forts.
Visitors are welcome to check out farm life for themselves and bottle-feeding pet lambs in springtime is the highlight of the holiday for many.
Our farmstead is nestled between the alluring Killadoon Hill and The Atlantic Ocean. It overlooks the three islands: Clare Island, Inis Turk and Caher.
Moreover, it is not an intensive farm; it is not driven solely by profit. It is sustainable and eco-friendly. We welcome visitors onto our farm via our self-catering accommodation.
The farm’s impact on our guests is my highlight. Our guests travel to us from all over the world from Korea, Taiwan, China, America, Australia, New Zealand, India, Sweden, and all over Europe. Guests stay with us because they want to experience life on a farm.
They are creating memories for themselves and their families. Farming is synonymous with Ireland and its people.
Furthermore, we want to ensure guests feel welcomed and enjoy their stay.
Eco-friendly and sustainable farm
We do not burn fossil fuels. There is no stove in our farmhouse. Our heating system is ground-source geothermal. We use Solar PV to generate electricity.
In the summer, we generate up to 40kWh per day. From November, December, and January, this could be as low as 3kWh per day.
Each year we plant hedges and trees. Furthermore, we grow vegetables and fruit, create our own compost and compost all our kitchen waste. We do not have any food waste and have never sent food to landfills.
Our own house is geothermal and has solar panels. We recycle, compost waste, and grow our own fruit, vegetables, and herbs.
In keeping in line with that, we plan to increase biodiversity on the farm, which may involve keeping the numbers as they are now or maybe reducing the numbers.
Also, we are considering reducing the use of artificial fertiliser and perhaps, growing multispecies swards.
We will continue with the system and improve the stock by introducing 5-star rams.
We continue to have good health and be content at Delvin Farm Life. Our animals are happy and healthy. We will carry on welcoming guests from around the globe
We farm because we love it. It has given us a great quality of life. It has provided our children with a wonderful upbringing.”
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