Many visitors to Ireland enjoy the sight of sheep in the green fields of Ireland. In fact, last week, they were the white fields of Ireland as we had a very late dump of snow, nicknamed "the Beast from the East". This was not good news for sheep farmers.
I grew up on a sheep farm in the Wicklow Uplands, about thirty miles from Dublin City and the family farm is now managed by my brother. One of the options I offer on my tours is a visit to the farm (subject to the farming timetable) and my father (in his eighties) loves meeting visitors and taking them through the yard, and explaining how sheep farming is done in Ireland.
There are approximately 3.5 million sheep in Ireland and their meat is a valuable export. Contrary to popular opinion, the wool is not an earner - it costs more to shear a sheep than you get for the fleece now - but that's a blog for another day, when shearing season begins!
Most farmers lamb their sheep indoors in a well ventilated sheep shed, and lambing time is a busy time. My family, for the past thirty years, have taken students from University College Dublin who are studying either Veterinary Science or Agricultural Science and who have to do some practical work. The students live in as someone has to be "on call", twenty four hours a day at the height of it. We have had some wonderful students over the years, many of whom have become family friends, returning to visit regularly.
My brother plans his lambing around the schedule of the college as a result, so this year, lambing is due to commence on 25th March - photos and updates will follow in a future blog!!