Ciaran Sheelan

Ciaran is a 24-year-old part-time hill sheep farmer from the Cooley peninsula in Co Louth. He is deeply engaged with maintaining the home hill flock which spend most of the year on commonage grazing. Ciaran is very enthusiastic about sheep farming and completed an agricultural degree at University College Dublin where he developed a particular interest in sheep husbandry. A work experience placement in Teagasc, Athenry, alerted him to the achievements that could be made through focussed breeding programmes. This understanding then lead to greater recording of maternal traits on his farm, which then caused changes in replacement ewe breeding policy. Ciaran is an active committee member of the Cooley Sheep Breeders Association which was formed to help Cooley farmers get a higher price for their sheep.

Ciaran is involved in creating a locally led project application for the Cooley Mountains. The project was created to seek investment that directly supported active hill farmers in his community. Bracken encroachment is a big issue on his commonage and on many others on the Cooley peninsula. Ciaran saw this locally led funding as a good opportunity to get something positive done in his community. The project quickly developed to included collaboration and engagement with the locally community, farmers, ecologists, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Louth County Council, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Mountaineering Ireland and others. Ciaran has recently been on a study trip to learn about the “Dartmoor Farming Futures” project in Devon, UK, where commonage management issues and solutions were discussed with other hill farmers from Dartmoor and Wales.

Ciaran has a real love for the wildlife he farms beside. He takes delight in the fact in the fact that his farming supports the rich biodiversity he can find while working on the farm, particularly at this time of year seeing bees swarming around the bell heather on the mountain. He is a passionate advocate for “High Nature Value” farming practices and the multiple public goods they produce (clean water, carbon sequestration, recreational spaces, biodiversity etc.). Ciaran is not shy about speaking about his passion for what he does. You will find him on twitter (@c_sheepdog) sharing photos of the rich biodiversity and stunning landscapes he encounters while working on his farm. He also explained his way of farming to a wider audience while hosting the 'IrelandsFarmers' twitter account (@IrelandsFarmers) in March 2018.

To keep his way of farming alive Ciaran believes the best approach is to promote the many benefits his farming has to the wider public and also to explain this new concept to hill farmers. At an information event held in conjunction with the locally led project application Ciaran spoke on the challenges of hill farming, highlighting the fact that hill farmers need to realise they “Produce more than just lamb” going on to explain the many other public goods they produce.

(Nominator: Helena Fitzgerald, Architect and EIP Project Plan Author)

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