14 May 2005

IrishExaminer.com

‘Parents’ flock to adopt sheep as Kerry farm opens its gates

14 May 2005
By Donal Hickey

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click to view - 'Kerry sheep' from David Simpson's Photographs

IT’S the Kerry version of an idea that has been working in other EU countries for some years and it could lead to the survival of at least one mountain sheep farm.

For €45, you can now adopt a sheep on the 1,200-acre Kissane holding, at Moll’s Gap, on the scenic Ring of Kerry between Killarney and Kenmare.

Deputy Jackie Healy-Rae, himself a farmer and sheep expert, will perform the official opening of the Kissane Sheep Farm on May 27.

Behind the venture are fifth generation farmer John Kissane and his Dutch partner, Anne Nieuwenhuizen, a former Olympic, World and European hockey champion.

“I’ve already seen similar projects working in Europe, where people can adopt a cow, or a chicken, and regularly visit these animals on farms. I believe this is the first project of its kind in Ireland,” said Anne.

“But our plan is about continuing to survive on the land. EU grants will be gone in a few more years. The goal of Adopt a Sheep is to preserve the Irish heritage of sheep in the mountains and save the family farm for future generations.”

With the help of seven hard-working sheep dogs, John Kissane and his family were able to run a profitable farm in one of the beautiful parts of the country for many years.

But now, EU regulations discourage him from keeping sheep on the hills, while sheep and wool prices are also on the slide.

The couple met, in April 2003, when Anne participated in a sheepdog clinic run by John as part of a Dutch management training programme.

“I was fascinated by the man and the animals and decided to apply for a summer job. In July of that year I came back to help John with the gathering and shearing of the sheep. In April 2004, I moved to Ireland and I love it,” she said.

Sixty-four sheep have already been adopted on the farm.

Anne said the €45 annual “adoption” fee covers the yearly costs of feeding and veterinary care for one sheep. She said the money also benefited the whole flock, through spending on farm maintenance, fencing and gates.

“Adoptive parents” receive a certificate with their name and the tag number of their sheep. They also get free admission to the farm and most of its activities.

The 1,000-sheep farm is open for visitors until October. John Kissane gives sheepdog demonstrations and in July and August, visitors can look at sheep being sheared. They can even join in and help if they want to.

They can also enjoy three marked walks through the mountain terrain of the farm.

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