The Jackson Organic Farm
In 2015 Ross and Amy Jackson began conversion to organic farming and now farm a cereal enterprise of malting barley and oats, and a sheep enterprise. In April they held an organic farm walk on their farm at Lacka, Carrig, Co.Tipperary. We catch up with them here to find out about their organic farm
Prior to the farm being converted to organic production this was a tillage farm with predominantly barley, wheat, oats, oilseed rape and fodder beet being grown.
Ross's brother had converted to organics. Ross and Amy Jackson liked the idea of reducing the amount of chemicals used on the farm, the challenge of an organic farming system and saw potential to increase the financial performance of the farm. The farm entered conversion in 2015 with full organic status for the land and produce being achieved in 2017. On the farm today is a cereal enterprise of malting barley and oats, and a sheep enterprise of approx. 145 breeding females.
There is a strong demand for organic cereals for both livestock and human consumption. The demand for organic cereals is expected to continue to increase for the foreseeable future.
Currently on the farm, there is 20.9 hectares of land devoted to cereals. This is made up of 8.8 hectares of winter oats and 12.1 hectares of malting barley. Malting barley is grown for the organic distilling market and winter oats is grown for the organic porridge market. Approximately 5 tonne of the oats/barley is kept on farm and fed to the sheep.
Crop rotation is the key to successful organic crop production. The rotation provides the principal mechanism to provide crop nutrients and is a major way to control pests/diseases along with a variety of other benefits.
The Jacksons plan will be implementing a rotation of a 3 to 4 year fertility-building phase followed with 3 to 4 years cereals and then back to multispecies sward.
The expected yield for the winter oats is between 2-2.5 tonnes/acre and the malting spring barley 2 tonnes/acre or slightly more
Soil Fertility on the Farm
- Soil fertility on farm is good.
- Lime is not required as all pHs are 6.8 to 7.2.
- Soil Phosphorus (P) 80% of soils at Index3, 20% at Index 4.
- and Potassium (K) 70% of soils at Index 3 and 30% at Index 2
Sources of Nutrients used on Farm
- Nitrogen from atmospheric fixation by clover and other legumes
- Farmyard manure from sheep when housed for lambing
- Imported farmyard manure and cattle slurry
- Imported dairy sludge
The flock was established in 2015 with the purchase of 120 ewe lambs from three different organic farms (mainly Texel crosses, but also some Charollais crosses, some New Zealand Suffolk x Belclares, and some black faces).
A Border Leicester ram was used for breeding replacements and Charollais for terminal; this year they have switched to Rouge for replacements with Charollais and Beltex for terminal.
Rams and occasional pure-bred females (for their sons) are the only bought-in sheep. Each December, sheep numbers are approx. 120 mature females, 30 young females, and 5 rams.
The sheep are grazed in rotation – ideally leaving fields closed for 3 weeks before re-grazing, and once the lambs are weaned there is a follower system whereby the ewes follow lambs.
- Rams are introduced to the flock in early October for breeding.
- Ewes are scanned at approximately 80 days gestation.
- Lambing begins in early March.
- Shearing takes place in late May.
- Ewes are given boluses in August and February.
- Vaccinations are given for Clostridial Diseases in accordance with the recommendations, and foot bathing is carried out regularly to prevent scald and footrot
Some lambs are sold through the Offaly Quality Lamb Producer Group to Irish Country Meats (ICM) based in Camolin Co Wexford and some are sold directly to customers under the “Lacka Organic Lamb” brand.
Lacka Organic Lamb
In 2020, Ross and Amy decided to make their lamb available to the general public, through the sale of ‘freshly frozen’ whole or half lambs (butchered into roasts and chops) through a box scheme.
Lambs are brought to a local abbatoir and meat is hung for up to 8 days before being crafted into chops and roasts by their experienced butchers, in accordance with customer preferences.
Orders can then either be collected from the farm (when ready) or can be sent to customers by courier (nationwide delivery, Ireland, UK, and France).
The lamb is a seasonal product, usually available (by pre-order) from July to January. Customers are encouraged to order well in advance, and this allows us to ensure we keep back lambs for them so that the carcass weight will be a little larger than those we send to the factory (a butchers lamb, rather than a factory lamb).
Get full details on Multi-species swards on the farm, Crop margins, forage crops for winter grazing and organic regulations for crop and animal health at: Find out more about Ross & Amy here or check out the booklet from the farm walk here
For more information about the Teagasc Organics Programme please visit www.teagasc.ie/organics
Or follow us on Twitter @TeagascOrganics