In this week’s Farmer’s Diary, Clodagh Hughes reflects on gaining experience and knowledge on her sheep farming journey.
With breeding season well underway here, I have taken some time to look back over my farming year so far.
As I have entered my sixth breeding season, I have been trying to assess my own progression as a sheep farmer.
Although I still consider myself a relative newbie to the industry, I have gained so much experience from working on my own with the sheep and from other farmers I have met along the way.
Also, I have learned invaluable skills from these farmers and my vets that will stand to me as I go forward.
There has been a bit of trial and error along the way, some of which I can say with hindsight could have been avoided, but, most importantly, I have learnt from these mistakes.
Farming, like any business and, perhaps more than some, benefits greatly from record keeping.
No matter how good your memory is or how adamant you are that “you will never forget that ewe’s face!” or “you will not forget what medicine you used the last time”, it is not humanly possible to remember everything.
And, when you are dealing with animal performance, flock health and all the veterinary medicines and products that can be needed throughout an animal’s life, it is of the utmost importance that you keep a clear and concise record of these events and applications.
There are a couple of reasons why this is important. Firstly, it is the law. As a food producer, a farmer must be able to produce adequate records to department officials on request.
These can include ear-tag records, fallen animals and how they were disposed of, sales on and from the farm and birth records.
Secondly: contrary to public opinion, farmers do not get free handouts to buy fancy machinery and go on holidays.
Granted, there are, perhaps, some larger farm operations that would benefit more on the financial front than the smaller, more traditional family farm.
But, each farm has the chance to apply for several different schemes.
These range from; bio-diversity-driven incentives to improve and restore some of our native flora and fauna that we have lost in recent decades to encouraging the reduction in the use and dependency of chemical fertilisers.
No better time to implement these measures than during the current world shortages and negative climate impacts that we hear about each day.
By completing my Green Cert earlier in the year, I learned a lot about the value of these agricultural aids and how, even as a small farmer, I could apply to avail of some of them in future.
But, by the same token, each farm must qualify for these Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine schemes.
Once they are approved for a grant or subsidy payment, they are open to checks from the department and will incur quite severe penalties if found to be in breach of the requirements for the scheme that they are involved with.
Speaking of completing the Green Cert, I got my certificates in the post last week – Well done me!