Joanne Devaney- P.B. 351 Sheep in 8 hours


 

Joanne the Shearer
You know when you can smash your Personal Best record by 138 sheep in under a year, well I think that's called passion. Joanne achievements in the sheep world are truly inspirational and. Not just to young girls looking to get into shearing but to anyone who is unfamiliar with the amazing beauty of Hill Farming.
Joanne Devaney or Joanne the Shearer shares how she got into shearing, her travels to Australia, and her fail safe plan for lambing time.
Where did I get my keen interest in sheep and shearing, you might ask? Well, anyone who knows my family (or more specifically my Dad) has never had the need to ask. I truly am a 'chip off the old block.'

To most people, the 22nd November 1963 is the day that the US president John F. Kennedy was assassinated. To my grandfather, Tom, it meant a whole lot more. It was this day that years of working in America and saving every penny he ever made would finally pay off. It was the day that he purchased 65 acres under the shadow of Benbulben mountain in Co. Sligo, along with 120 acres of commenage on Big Ben itself.

Today, my uncle farms sucklers here at home, while my own father, Padraig, has always looked after the sheep. He now farms over 600 mountain ewes, between the home farm and two other leased mountains. He also keeps over 100 lowland ewes. From the beginning, his main interest has been hill farming, and he has worked on breeding and maintaining the hardy Mayo Blackface breed in his flocks for many years.

I am the third eldest of nine kids.
(Yes, you heard me right!)
From a young age I've been around sheep, learning all there was to know. I learned how to handle them, assist with lambing and eventually, starting around the age of 17, how to shear them. We all had our chores. Feeding dogs, hens, ponies, sheep. Yet it was always left to us to decide what we wanted to do with our lives. I wasn't asked or told to pick up the shears. I just did. I didn't feel pressured, but I did feel welcome. So I started to learn the trade.

It was only when I starting contract shearing and competition shearing that I realised how rare women shearers were. Back then, I knew two other women in the country who were shearers. These women, Breda Lynch and Colette Deegan, remained a huge inspiration to me as a competition shearer, and still are. "If they could do it, maybe I can too."

Being a female shearer in my family was never any different. I was treated fairly and as an equal. I was encouraged all the way, but I had to work for my shearing stand. I only earned my spot on the shearing trailer full time in the summer of 2016, a year after I shore my first 100 sheep in a day. I had to work for my place in the family business, but looking back, I wouldn't of wanted it any other way.

Today I am glad to say I am friends with many other female shearers. Before I started college, I travelled to Australia at 19 years old to shear for 8 months. I met so many amazing women. Shearers, wool classers and woolhandlers. I still miss having that.

Looking back, it was half mental to travel the world at my age as a learner shearer, but the life lessons the Aussies, as well as those wrinkly merino sheep, thought me were game changing! I loved my time out there, and even considered staying. But a summer back home shearing was enough to tell me where my heart truly was.

I was lucky enough to represent the Republic of Ireland in Woolhandling at the World Shearing and Woolhandling and Championships at France in 2019. I was thrilled to come 4th in the Senior Woolhandling and 3rd in the Intermediate Shearing. l've never minded shearing against the lads. It feels nice to be able to show people that shearing isn't just down to brute strength. Skill and technique are so much more important to do the job quickly, cleanly and efficiently. The lads have also been so inclusive, and have done nothing only made me feel like a part of the shearing community.

Last year, I shore a personal best day tally of 351 sheep in 8 hours here on our home farm. I had been aiming to shear 300, as my previous PB had been 213 earlier that year. Little did I know what I was truly capable of! It was a special day, and I couldn't have done it without the help and and support of my big family.

It was tough taking a step back from the action to go to college, yet it helped that I was studying a topic that interested me, and I knew it would help me achieve my dreams. I'm currently in my second of four years of Agricultural Science at UCD in Dublin. The first two years have been very science based which has been tough, but I look forward to my final two years where I will study all farming sectors and go on work placement in many different areas of farming.

My YouTube channel 'Joanne the Shearer' has been a reasonably recent venture, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't surprised at how quick it has grown. I’ve also been sharing farm life on Instagram for a few years. I have loved showing people our life as we gather mountain sheep, work the sheepdogs, get sheep ready for sales and assist ewes at lambing time. I've loved documenting and sharing these experiences for people to see, not only for other farmers, but also helping to educate people on what farming life is really like and where food really comes from. Hill farming is a very unique way of farming and its something that many people don't know very much about. It has been nice to document these special days, such as my personal best shearing tally last year.

Despite my love for shearing, my favourite time in the sheep calendar without question is lambing time. It is extremely busy as well as mentally and physically draining, but being able to help bring life into the world and watch lambs play in the field really never gets old. Here are a 10 tips about caring for ewes and lambs post-lambing:

1. If lambing indoors, hygiene is extremely important. It is much easier for issues like joint ill, scour and mastitis to occur indoors, so liming pens, disinfecting and using fresh bedding regularly will help prevent the transmission of disease.

2. Once a lamb is born, dip or spray its navel in strong iodine. This helps to dry the navel quickly and prevents infection, causing joint or navel ill.

3. Take the ewe and lambs to an individual bonding pen to allow them to get to know each other. Check that the ewe is taking an interest in the lamb and licking him.

4. Next check the ewes udder. Make sure she has a good full udder of colostrum, that both teats are functioning and no mastitis is present. Colostrum is the 'first milk' which the ewe produces over the first few days after birth. It contains vital antibodies that are extremely important to give the lamb a fighting chance at life.

5. Provide the ewe with food and water. Sheep lose a lot of energy and fluids when giving birth, so offer her food and water and observe to make sure she eats and drinks within a few hours after giving birth. She might be quite focused on her lambs at first, which is only natural.

6. Observe the lamb and check he attempts to stand and suck quickly. I'm a firm believer in keeping it close to nature, so I'm never one to rush in to stomach tube an otherwise healthy lamb unless I feel it is necessary. If the lamb perhaps had a difficult birth, looks weak or is taking a while to stand and suck, you should bottle feed or stomach tube the first feed of colostrum within the first hour.

7. Newborn lambs should receive at least 50ml/kg of colostrum in the first 6 hours of life. Ideally, a ewe needs to produce 1L of colostrum per lamb in the first 24 hours. If we are supplementing a newborn lamb with mixed colostrum powder or ewes milk, we feed nothing only colostrum for the first 24 hours.

8. Keep the ewe and lamb in their individual lambing pen for at least 24 hours. When you are certain that the lamb is feeding from the ewe on its own and that the ewe is allowing both lambs to suck, move them into group pens to observe the ewe and lamb's ability to find each other and feed. Look out for signs of any sickness in the ewe and lamb.

9. After a few days, if weather permits, let the ewe and lamb outdoors to graze. As the lamb grows, their milk intake increases rapidly. This increases the demand on the ewe, so getting the ewe outdoors and grazing is important to allow her to produce a sufficient amount of milk.

10. Continue to check on the ewe and lambs daily, and look out for signs of sickness. Lameness or swollen joints in lambs could indicate joint ill. A ewe looking under the weather or stiff could indicate mastitis in her udder. Hungry lambs could indicate a ewe is struggling to produce enough milk or has formed mastitis.

I hope these tips help you out a little. Happy lambing everyone!
Joanne's YouTube Channel can be found Here
Joanne the Shearer Instagram Here