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Farmer’s Diary: I strive to keep my farming system as close to organic as I can afford

In this week’s Farmer’s Diary, Clodagh Hughes discusses organic sheep farming.

I like to think of my wee enterprise as a traditional-type of Irish farm, harkening back to some of the more slightly old-fashioned and wholesome farm practices; some happen by choice and others out of sheer necessity.                                                                                                                                     Although I am growing a business, I strive to keep my farming system as close to organic as I can afford to at the moment.

Organic sheep farming 

I would be very interested in going down the route of fully organic in the future. However, you would be surprised by the number of rules and regulations required to meet the criteria.

One major restriction for me is the amount of sheep you are allowed per acre of land and/or per square footage when housed at lambing.

For example, although I am quite happy with the shed space I have available for a flock my size at present, I know that I will need to extend shed space if I want to grow my flock.

To qualify for organic status, I would need to be able to provide much more space per animal than is physically and financially possible for me at the moment.

I also believe I would need to be much better established and experienced in all aspects of farm business and practice before I could even consider going down the organic route.

Building a farm from scratch                                                                                       

And folks, considering I have started from absolute scratch here in Carracloghan, from building sheds to fencing, reseeding old pastures, buying my first ewes in 2016, recovering from surgeries/ lambing on crutches in 2019, working off-farm, studying and just generally living and loving my sheep farming adventure. I am pretty happy to play the long game. I have found patience in my old age!

Jakers, I have just read over that last bit, and it makes me tired just reading it!!! Thanks, Alan.

These stricter rules and regulations for organic farming in Ireland are required when you are promoting and selling produce to today’s educated consumer.

And rightly so, they want to know and be able to trust that the product they are buying is of the highest standards possible.  Animal welfare is paramount, and, let’s face it, we all want value for money too.

Now, I must stress that just because all farm produce is not fully organic or may not fulfil all the conditions needed for organic status, this in no way undervalues much of the goods we buy in our weekly shop.

Irish farming standards are very high, and quality is paramount. I will not go into the nuts and bolts of it here because it is a very complex subject, and my facts would be sketchy!

But, I, like any farmer I know, can proudly stand over my product, knowing it had the best life and care I could give it.

I adhere to all animal husbandry and veterinary best practice recommendations. Above all, I know what my sheep need to have a healthy and safe life under my care. As a farmer and meat-eater, this is me doing my best job.

Further reading 

You can read more of Clodagh’s updates here.

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