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Teagasc Sheep Open Day for Discussion Groups

Sheep farmers are attending an open day at the Teagasc sheep research centre in Athenry, County Galway today, Tuesday, 16 September. Teagasc has recently imported genetically elite Texel and Suffolk sheep from New Zealand. The proposals on how these animals will be evaluated against contemporary Irish Texel and Suffolk sheep will be presented to farmers today. This trial will be used as an aid in evaluating the replacement breeding index to ensure that animals deemed to be of high genetic merit for maternal traits are generating more profit at flock level. This flock will also be used to determine the suitability of New Zealand genetics for Irish grass based production systems. The impact of using high genetic merit, 5 star rams on lamb output will also be discussed at today’s event.

Updates on other research projects will also be presented. The research demonstration farm, which is examining the effects of stocking rate and ewe prolificacy on lamb output per hectare, has now completed almost three years of studies. It has been found that stocking rate and prolificacy are both key drivers of output, increasing output by 110 kilos carcase weight per hectare and gross margin by €254 per hectare.

A long term study that examined the effects of rearing regime for replacements on the lifetime performance of ewes differing in prolificacy is being completed. This study found that the plane of nutrition offered to replacement ewe lambs during the first winter has a lifetime impact on the weight of progeny at weaning. It’s recommended that replacement ewe lambs should be managed during the first winter to gain 50 grams daily and managed during their second summer to gain 90 grams daily.

The messages from the Teagasc BETTER farm sheep programme are also being presented. Significant progress has been made on the farms in this programme by implementing changes to the management system and replacement policy which has delivered increased output. These results have shown the huge potential to increase ewe productivity in both hill and lowland flocks across the country. Having a breeding policy to produce quality prolific replacement ewes is key. Improving ewe weight and condition prior to the breeding season will significantly increase the lamb crop.

Mediterranean markets for lamb from the hill flocks have declined in recent years, with Irish lamb exports to the combined Portuguese and Spanish markets down by 87%. The different options for finishing hill lambs, to have them suitable for the French market, are being outlined to farmers in Athenry today.