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Current Experiment

The main objectives of the Ireland New Zealand across breed animal comparison study (INZAC flock) are to:

  • to validate the Irish maternal (Replacement) genetic sheep index as constructed by Sheep Ireland and
  • to compare Irish versus New Zealand genetically elite animals.

Genetic gains achievable to date have been small (€0.28/lamb/year) but the gains are permanent and cumulative. Genetic evaluations in New Zealand have been established since 1999 and have resulted in considerable rates of genetic improvement to date (€1.16/lamb/year). The goal traits included in both the New Zealand and Irish genetic evaluations are similar however, to date, animals of high genetic merit from New Zealand and Ireland have not been compared or evaluated within a similar environment. In 2014 and 2015, Suffolk and Texel ewes of elite genetic merit, as determined via the Sheep Improvement Limited (SIL) index were imported to the Newford farm, Teagasc Athenry. This importation has therefore enabled the evaluation of New Zealand sheep genetics within an Irish pasture passed production system and will subsequently help to determine the role of New Zealand sheep genetics within the Irish sheep population. Some of the key areas which will be addressed within this project are:

  • Breed origin (Ireland or New Zealand)
  • Genetic potential ( Five star or one star replacement index)
  • Lambing traits
  • Ewe milk yield and composition
  • Lamb growth rates pre and post-weaning
  • Ewe intake at pasture (during lactation and the dry period)
  • Ewe longevity within the flock