Teagasc National Sheep Conference
Technical performance in terms of ewe productivity, grassland management, stocking rate and flock health are all important drivers of profitability and must be the sustained focus of all sheep producers and particularly in times of uncertainty. That was the clear message from the Teagasc National Sheep Conference which took place in Carrick on Shannon, County Leitrim, yesterday, Tuesday, 31 January. A second Teagasc sheep conference will take place in Carlow, tomorrow, Thursday 2 February.
Teagasc researcher Dr Frank Campion advised farmers that managing the ewe’s nutrition in late pregnancy, 6 to 8 weeks pre lambing will influence lamb viability and lamb vigour and the overall performance of the flock at lambing. Planning and management decisions from as far back as mating will influence the performance of the flock at lambing and particular care is needed to ensure that ewes are lambing down in correct body condition and receive adequate high quality protein in the weeks prior to lambing.
Michael Gottstein, Head of Teagasc sheep knowledge transfer department, outlined strategies for coping with the extra lambs produced in highly prolific flocks. He spoke about some of the practical labour saving strategies for managing surplus lambs. To maximise profitability flock owners should aim to wean more than 1.7 lambs per ewe.
John Doyle, a County Wexford farmer in the Teagasc BETTER Farm Sheep Programme, spoke about growing more grass on his farm and how tackling soil fertility was the first step for him towards achieving that goal. He said that dividing fields into grazing paddocks was essential to utilise the extra grass and advised the farmers attending the conference that lambs should be moved to fresh grass every 3-4 days.
Seamus Fagan from the DAFM regional veterinary laboratory in Athlone outlined the results of a survey of sheep mortality on 33 farms during 2016. This study will provide baseline data on mortality on Irish sheep farms and enable more targeted interventions. He stressed the importance of good hygiene at lambing, particularly lambing ewes in a clean environment and ensuring lambs get adequate colostrum in the first few hours of life.
The full proceedings from the conference are available here National Sheep Conferences 2017
The Teagasc Hill Sheep Conference takes place in Killarney on 8 February.