During most of this time, the farm focused on producing milk for local dairies as well as chickens for the laying egg market until 1995. When James and Austin took over the farm from their parents in 2010, they faced the common challenge of how to balance the continuation of the family’s farming tradition with their off-farm employment. James works as a heating engineer and Austin is an electrical engineer. Their solution was to end the dairy and poultry elements of the farm and focus more on raising sheep and a herd of suckler cows.
James and Austin have always had an interest in sheep from a young age, learning about them from their father Jim who had raised Suffolk and Texel sheep for over 20 years.
The Morgans ‘Drumiller’ Texel herd has seen many successes over the years, but given the breed’s regular oversupply for sale and the difficulties often encountered with lambing Texel sheep, James and Austin have decided to change their breeding operations. They were looking for a sheep with reduced mortality rates, an increased lambing percentage, and a herd that would require less labor than they had found before. The breed of sheep they considered suitable was the Lleyn.
The Morgans purchased their first Lleyn sheep in July 2014 from Robert Edwards’ herd (1513) for embryo work in their Drumiller Texel herd. Having seen the benefits of lambing the Lleyn breed in the spring, with little to no lambing assistance needed, they decided to increase their Lleyn flock by purchasing older ewes and lambs from the flock. by Hugo Warden (1441).
In 2016, the Morgans decided to stop breeding and producing purebred Texels and switched to crossing their purebred Texels with a Lleyn ram. Indeed, some of the sheep from their father’s first flock are now used for crossbreeding with Lleyn breed rams to produce quality finished commercial lambs and quality replacement lambs for their main flock or for private sales. Their breeding program was bolstered by the purchase of their first ram Lleyn at the Ballymena Society auction in 2017. He runs alongside the boys’ ram Charollais who serves both Lleyn and Lleyn cross Texel ewes. The Morgan Boys’ most recent purchase was fourteen sheepskin ewes from Aidan McConville’s’ Glennview ‘flock (2002) in September 2019.
The Morgans farm around 90 ewes and keep 20 replacement ewes for preservation or private sale. They also operate a strong system of suckler beef cows which consists of Limousin crossbreed Simmental cows, either AI or naturally fed to Limousin bulls.
The Morgans emphasized the importance of grass management on the family farm. They ensure that the fields are regularly plowed for grass mixtures or turnip stubble every five years. This system works well for them with the Lleyn herd, with most lambs ending up on the grass with little introduction to the meal. The Lleyn and Lleyn crosses regularly finish the grass around 42 kg live weight which is then sold either in the local cattle market or in private sales of females. Lleyn ewes are mostly calved outdoors from mid-March depending on weather conditions.
When asked about their experiences as a new Lleyn breeder, the Morgans praised the breed, James stating: “There are huge advantages over the breeds we used before – ease of lambing is a big plus. Milk thing. They prefer to be outdoors and the health benefits are there. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that they do the trick by making more profit in terms of lamb production and pasture per acre.
James did however express regret regarding the Lleyn breed. Recalling that his neighbor and fellow breeder Aidan McConville had advised him years before to buy Lleyns, James laughed and said: “I wish I had followed his advice sooner.”