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Maternal-focused flock to host Growing Organics Farm Walk

Maternal-focused flock to host Growing Organics Farm Walk

Carrying approximately 550 ewes which lamb outdoors in March and April, Joe Nolan, who farms alongside his wife Clair and their son Ciaran, will host a Growing Organics Farm Walk on their farm in Kilconnor, Fenagh, Co. Carlow.

Previewing the event, Marianne Mulhall, Specialised Organic Advisor in Teagasc, introduces us to Joe and shares details of the farming system being operated.

Joe began the conversion to organic farming in March 2022 and reached full organic status in March 2024. The farm comprises of 98ha – a mix of tillage (32.27ha) and grass / red clover / multispecies swards (65.7ha).

The commercial flock is based on maternal foundations with Mule/Lleyn/Belclare/Highlander cross ewes mainly carried, which are returned to Belclare, Lleyn, Highlander and Charollais tups. Along with the main flock, Joe also has a pedigree flock of Charollais on the farm and sells grass-fed hogget rams from this pedigree flock.

The lamb production system

Lambs are grazed on a mix of old leys - which are part of a reseeding rotation with the tillage enterprise - multispecies grass swards, and white and red clover grass swards. Targeting a finished weight of 42-44kg and a 50% kill out rate, lambs are marketed through Irish Country Meats (ICM) in Camolin in July/August.

The remainder of the lambs are held over the winter and fed according to their weights on winter cover crops of stubble turnips, rape, vetch, kale and multispecies swards. This grazing is supplemented with arable and red clover silage, along with oats if necessary, with the aim to have lambs ready to market in January.

Winter feed

Attendees at the open day will hear more on how Joe uses red clover and arable silage to meet his winter feed requirement, along with growing oats and combi-crops, resulting in no concentrate feed being purchased for the flock.

Joe has expanded his tillage enterprise since his conversion to organics. He now grows oats for Whites Oats, Armagh, and is also growing feed crops for other organic farmers and is very interested in building up farm-to-farm trading relationships.

Graphic for Joe Nolan Growing Organics farm walk including picture of farm and event date and location as included in text of this article

Soil fertility

Soil fertility is very good on the farm. The most recent soil sample results show 80% of the farm is optimum for phosphorous (P), 70% of the farm is optimum for potassium (K) and 60% of the farm has a pH between 6.2 and 6.8.

On this, Joe explained: “The grazing of sheep is a significant contributor to maintaining soil fertility, along with the chopping and incorporation of straw each year, and sowing of cover crops and the regular spreading of lime, which has been a traditional since the beet growing days on the farm.”

Joe is very happy to have made the move into an organic farming system, adding: “It suits the way I want to farm and my lifestyle. I like the way I can sow a crop and close the gate on it. “I also find there is much more of a need to plan ahead and make decisions in advance. You also need to understand your own farm and stock and know what they need and what you can achieve with your land and animals under the organic system.”

For detailed information on Joe Nolan’s organic farming system, please attend the Growing Organics Farm Walk on his farm on Wednesday, July 17 at 11am.

To find out more and to register to attend this Growing Organics Farm Walk, click here.