Good question, one which I often ask myself!!!
You can see from the photos below, this week we have had a sheep week!
You will also be glad to know that Ace (the new sheep dog) is progressing well, each week he is gaining confidence and skill. I will try to get some video footage of him working.
For Ballakelly Farm, the role of the sheep has changed over the years, especially in the last 12 months.
Before I was born my uncle Philip had one of the best Suffolk Sheep flocks in the British Isles. Unfortunately for me he died the year I was born. I have always wished I had the opportunity to work with him and learn how he achieved this status. I still have the genetics within my flock today, but unfortunately, they are no longer one of the best Suffolk Sheep Flocks in the British Isle, possibly the Isle of Man!!
My dad was not a stock farmer but a machinery man. The year I arrived, being the best day of his life 😊, dad also had to learn how to lamb sheep and look after stock. Dad continued to breed Suffolk’s, but their place on the farm became more secondary they also had to become more commercial. By the time I inherited the flock it was nearly 100% commercial, the tubs were sold locally as stock tups.
I like uncle Philip enjoy my stock work, so in my late teens I decided to invest some money back into the Suffolks to regain some of the quality. From the age of 15 I started to take my tup lambs away to the marts in the UK and received reasonable returns.
Over the years I have had lots of success at the local shows, in 2002 I finally won the champion sheep trophy at the Royal Manx. I always remember in the ring I started to read all the names of the past winners, in the 70’s uncle Philip had received a replica of the trophy for winning it for so many years!!
Once I started to grow up (last year), I had more responsibility on the farm, my work load increase so I was unable to focus on the Suffolks, so once again they have become a commercial flock.
However, I am hoping that Tinky may follow in my shoes and want to take over the pedigree sheep, then together we may finally regain the status uncle Philip once had.
I still haven’t really answered the question, why do you want to raise sheep:
There are many reasons to raise sheep. The reason(s) are important, as they will have a significant impact on the breed(s) that are raised and the manner in which the sheep are fed, managed, and marketed.
The profit margins are narrow (**** to be more honest). To make money raising sheep (I don’t think you can), you would need at least several hundred ewes, probably more than 500. While there are some farmers who make a majority of their income from sheep farming, sheep raising is more often a part-time or secondary enterprise of a farm.
Ballakelly has only really retained some sheep so that we have lamb to sell in the butcher’s shop. I was reading an article in the Farmers Weekly and they split sheep farming into 3 categories:
- Economic – this is key for me, which is why finally, now that I sell my product to the public, I have discovered a way to make a return on sheep. Lamb burgers and sausages are usually the best format. Both products received taste award in 2017.
- Environmental – we use our sheep to help maintain the grass land, which is fundamental for the cattle.
- Quality of life – I have not kept sheep for ‘fun’ since I was a lad, so lets hope Tinky can reinstate some of the old school morals.
It must be time to go and check the sheep!! Or count them and get some sleep.
Baaaaaa for now
Some videos of working with the sheep (best viewed in full screen)