With 950 ewes lambing on his Co. Kerry hill sheep flock, Glyn Egan is no stranger to the challenges that come with a normal lambing season.

However, 2024 has brought new challenges to his farm that Egan, and his father, John, have never encountered on their farm before.

Reflecting on the recent rain that struck the area of Kenmare where he farms, Egan told Agriland “my father is around 75 years and he’d never seen anything like it”.

During the recent Storm Kathleen, while Egan said it has been raining “every day,” it was during the storm that there was a four day period of heavy rain.

While they could house 300 of their more recently born lambs indoors, there was still 300 lambs that were outside during this period.

Egan explained that the lambs outside “didn’t leave the ditches” during this period.

“The lambs would sit there and get weaker and weaker in the ditch.”

He said that if there were lambs being born outside during the heavy rain, Egan estimated that “50% would have died”.

sheep and lamb
Source: Glyn Egan

Losing ten lambs outdoors to the weather conditions over this period, Egan said “you couldn’t even set foot out in it to check lambs it was so bad.

“Only for the sheds, we’d have way more losses. We have neighbours there and they had ferocious losses.

“We had to put sheep and lambs into outhouses, turf sheds, tool sheds, into the cattle trailer, everywhere,” he added.

However, not every building was safe for use on the farm, as the storm destroyed a lean-to beside the house that Egan will have to pay thousands to repair.

“The worst thing about the weather there, its very physical hard work, but its soul destroying on you emotionally.

“When you see lambs dying that you spent hours at, for all the hours you put in to them and they start dropping, it would depress you to be honest.

“Farmers have to be tough, but I don’t care how tough you are, it would mess with your mind,” Egan said.

Foxes on the farm

With lambs dying due to the weather, Egan discovered there was an additional cause of the increasing lamb mortality on the farm.

After lambs began to go missing and could not be found, Egan then spotted foxes on his land one night.

Egan explained there is a lot of woodland and forestry surrounding his land, and with a lot of his fields being a good distance from his yard, he said three to four lambs were taken by foxes.

He then hired shooters who came and got the foxes, with Egan reporting there has “been no lamb gone since”.

Flock performance

This year, Egan has 950 ewes lambing, with an additional 200 replacements on the farm also.

His lowland crosses were scanned at 1.5 lambs/ewe, with his hill breeds scanning at 1.4 lambs/ewe.

Following the purchase of 40 mule ewes in Ballinrobe Mart, they were put in lamb by a Beltex ram, and Egan has said “most of them have lambed with no issues”.

He added that he plans on focusing his breeding flock with mules in the future, and that a Texel ram may be better suited to finishing them.

His pure bred hill breeds are Scottish Blackface, which he said are ideal as they “hardy in the higher up hills”.


Egan built a new shed two years ago on his farm with 80 individual lambing pens, and a total of 120 lambing pens are available for use.

While he said he is at the “tail-end of lambing”, there are 180 ewes still to lamb.

sheep sheds
Lambing pens. Image source: Glyn Egan

During the lambing season, Egan runs his ewes in every few days to check which ones are springing, and will leave them in the shed if they are close to lambing.

He said: “When you’re lambing inside, it’s way more labour intensive. We catch every lamb, we get them sucking with the ewe, we treat the navel with iodine.

“Up to two years ago, it was just me and my father doing it and it was just madness.

“It was soul destroying to be honest, because it was too much work for us and there was a lot of problems. The labour of indoor lambing, there’s some serious work in it. There’s no question, you’d be absolutely wrecked.

“It’s tough going there sometimes on the nights on your own. For farmers living on their own, it must be frightening for them, doing farming on their own.”

This year, Egan got two agriculture students in to help for their placement, one for nights and another for days during the busiest period of lambing.

While this help allowed him to get “a few hours of sleep” each night, Egan said he would still “be getting up a few times a night”.

Egan explained that they prefer to intervene and pull lambs, as they have previously had issues during lambing, particularly with lambs suffocating from the water bag being wrapped around their head at birth.

Egan said: “We prefer to pull them ourselves and lamb them on the individual straw bed. It’s cleaner, preventing joint ill. It’s hard to keep an eye on all of them,” he added.

Sheep prices and higher costs

While the sheep trade in factories and marts is current enjoying record high prices, there is a significant number of farmers unable to avail of the weekly price increases.

Egan said that during this time of year, prices for lambs are “always good,” but he said for the “ordinary farmer” who lambs from the end of March-April, when they start selling in “July to October, prices are on the floor”.

“When we start selling, the marts are overrun with sheep.

“When we start selling, the marts are overrun with sheep. Prices at the moment are outstanding, but that is no good to us. I guarantee that when we’re selling, they’ll be on the floor, as they’ll be overstocked.

While Egan was “luckily” able to buy in hay and straw in bulk earlier this year, he will be facing additional costs for fertiliser and feed.

With his farmland saturated, and being unable to spread fertiliser, he said this will have a “knock-on effect” when trying to get grass cut.

“It’s very tough to make money in sheep farming now at the moment,” he added.

The year ahead for sheep farming

Egan is a qualified carpenter, who recently returned from Australia and took over the family farm.

His father had cut back numbers but Egan has gradually increased numbers again.

This progress is detailed on a regular basis across Egan’s social media pages, where he is better known as the Sheep Shepherd to his wide following.

Speaking on his experience farming his land, Egan said “it’s tough going but it’s a great way of life. You forget about the lambing fairly quick when the good days come.

Source: Glyn Egan

“If someone came up to me during the bad days, I would have told them you can have the sheep. If they gave me a bit of money I would’ve sold the lot.”

However, Egan said that attitudes can quickly change, as he said some farmers might say at this time of year that they won’t put half of their ewes back in-lamb, but “come October time” he said farmers can tend to “get more sheep again” after the weather improves.

“Only for the weather being so bad, it would’ve been a great lambing,” Egan added.