DESPITE the extreme weather conditions that faced farms across the country this year, hill sheep farmer Denis O’Riordan from Borlin, just outside Bantry, is confident for the future of his farm and his business.
Speaking at a Teagasc Better Farm event at his 331-hectare hill farm last week, Denis, who is also a finalist in The Southern Star’s Drystock Farmer of the Year award – the winner of which will be announced at the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery on Sunday – said that, while the weather is the biggest fact, the terrain also adds to the challenges facing any hill farming enterprise.
‘The weather can be completely different up here,’ Denis said. We get rain here when it’s dry down in Bantry and with heavy rain it makes it very difficult to travel the land. While we didn’t have much rain over the past few months we are making up for it now and there is a good growth in grass.’
Denis took over the farm from his uncle, Donal O’Connor, back in 2010 and joined the Better Farm Teagasc programme back in 2015. Over 30 other farmers from the surrounding region turned out for the Teagasc event on Denis’s farm, where he has a flock of 300 ewes and seven suckler cows on his land at the top of Bantry’s Borlin Valley.
In all, he has around 271 hectares of mountainous land with another 60 hectares enclosed. His flock primarily comprises Scottish Blackface with breeds like crossed Swaledale, Lanark and Suffolk being introduced. In collaboration with Teagasc, Denis electronically tags all his new-born lambs and they are weighed at intervals to monitor their progress over a period of time.
‘Since joining the Better Farm programme Denis has increased his output,’ Teagasc drystock adviser Michael Connelly, told The Southern Star. Denis has done very well despite the tough climate this year and the tough conditions.
‘The programme focusses on improved flock management and genetic improvement, while the programme is built upon active collaboration between the farmer and Teagasc research and advisory staff. Discussion groups are also an integral part of the process.
‘Denis shares experiences and performance results with visiting groups, such as we have here today with the numbers that have turned out for the farm walk,’ added Michael.