Sheep Farming in Ireland
Trip Start Jun 24, 2012
15Trip End Jul 08, 2012
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Sheep farming in Ireland is only for those who are passionate about preserving a way of life. You won't get rich doing it and if you barely come out even, you are successful.
We stopped at Kinssane Farms on the way from Kinsale to Dingle. It is still a working farm, but they now have demonstrations. All wool farms receive government subsidies. Opening the farm up for demonstration reduces the subsidy the farm receives from the Irish government. When all the sheep were sheared, they were lucky to receive €1500 - €1600 for all the wool. This has to do with the fact that people wear so much synthetic material and cotton. During WW II, wool was needed for uniforms, blankets, supplies (remember those scratchy Army blankets?), now demand is down
Farmer Kissane raises Scottish Highland Blackface Sheep. Their wool is coarse and best suited for carpets. Touching some socks woven from their wool, I agree; the wool is scratchy coarse. The Scottish sheep have adjusted well to the Irish climate (rain, showers, schizophrenic patterns, wind, rain drops, flooding rain, blinding rain, sprinkling rain, misting rain, foggy rain, clouds, and an occasional ray of sun).
During the summer, the sheep graze on grass in the lower part of the farms and on common land. In the winter, they go up into the hills. During the winter, farmers bring grass up to the sheep, often purchased on credit. Lambs are born in late March and April. Each farmer identifies his sheep with a biodegradable paint brand. On this farm, the paint brand is red - that's not blood in the photos! It is necessary to shear the sheep to keep the sheep comfortable and safe. The lambs and sheep are preyed on by foxes and fall off cliffs.
We witnessed three hard working sheep herding dogs round up the sheep - amazing to watch! The dogs are not trained until they are at least two years old. Like finding good police dogs, sheep herding dogs are hard to find are are very expensive.
We also watched two sheep being sheared. They are brought into the stable for at least 24 hours before shearing and after shearing, they are branded and vaccinated.
Most sheep (lambs) are sold for meat. Raising sheep for wool is a labor of love and a way of life. It was fascinating to learn about this traditional way of life.