I farm: “400 hill ewes and a few sucklers on 800ac of commonage and 46ac of lower ground with my wife Aisling and children Fiach (18), Aoibhinn (16) and Gráinne (13).”

Sheep: “I run 200 Mule ewes and 200 Mayo Blackface. We put the Mules to the ram two weeks ago and the Blackface on Saturday. I try to keep them spread out so we don’t have a mad month next April. I split both groups in two and run five Beltex rams with each. I hold back a few rams for the horny ewes and pull a few from the Mules to join them. The Beltex lambs have great quality and conformation.”

Jim Kavanagh with his Mayo Blackface ewes at Myshall, Co Carlow. \ Patrick Browne

Lambing: “The Mules start lambing 1 April. The ewes require very little handling and the Beltex are born hardy, up and gone. We bring them in to a shed and yard if the weather gets bad but have been lucky the last few years. The real work is getting them moved on, ringed and tagged. After three weeks they go to the hill and don’t come down then again until late July/early August when the ewes come in for shearing and we draft the strongest of the lambs.”

Market: “The lambs are reared off the hill grass with no meal and the last of them are weaned in October. There’s a real market for the Beltex lamb and the price has been there this year to sell as stores. Our real aim is to produce a quality lamb in a sustainable manner.”

Jim's ewes are put to Beltex rams to rear a lamb with good confrimation. \ Patrick Browne

Blackstairs Farming Futures: “We’ve been part of the Blackstairs Farming Futures EIP since the beginning. It includes 93 farmers over nine commonages between Kildavin and St Mullins. We support and encourage biodiversity and are farming the hill no different than the generations before us. It’s great to see so many people talking about the Blackstairs and the future of farming on the mountain.”

The family's sheep dogs Po and Lucky are vital for gathering sheep on the hill. \ Patrick Browne

Quotable quote: “Farmers are well aware they need to look after biodiversity and the EIP scheme is so important for that. It’s the first time a bunch of us have come together to work together for what we’re doing on the mountain.”