The day was seen as an opportunity for Ireland’s sheep farmers to learn from all the latest Teagasc research and help improve their own farms upon returning home.
The day started with the scheduled walk, which entailed walking to the different podiums set up and listen to the latest results from research in sheep farming. Each podium covering a different aspect of sheep farming than the others.
The event commenced with the first walk starting at 11 a.m. and ran up until 5 o’clock. Upon entering the facility and simply having a quick look around it was clear to see all the hard work put into the event, and indeed sheep farming. Sheep could be seen in various different paddocks all over the land.
The first podium was an introduction into what was coming up through the course of the day with information on the upcoming stands/talks, on the different ‘villages’ on offer, a background into the programme, and information on profitability in sheep farming. From the get go we received bountiful supplies of information, learning here the importance of increasing the number of lambs per ewe.
Then upon completion we moved onto the next stand, which focused on the Age of lambing in sheep.
We were greeted here with a talk on breed selection in ewes and rams and mixing various different breeds may help improve overall profits. We were given in-depth detail with numerous samples, and offered valuable information such as the increasing of weight at joining increases profitability in the long run.
Research was carried by the Teagasc team on different animals from different breed types up to the age of 4 years. This study was carried out approximately 440 ewes in total. This offered a great insight of what’s to be expected (Live weight gain etc), and what should be achieved in sheep at the different stages of their early life.
The next stand featured two speakers, Nóirín Mc Hugh and Fiona McGovern, who this time spoke on the INZAC (Irish New Zealand Animal Comparison) flock on the farm.
The farm first established in late 2014 discussed the flock, now consisting of over 180 ewes from two breeds, Texel and Suffolk. Only specific sheep were chosen when setting up this flock, and Irish sheep were only chosen if they had at least three generations of accuracy above 60% maternally, and only ewes originating from farms with a DQI of above 60%.
This podium offered information on the flock structure, its management and performance results, and also gave information on how New Zealand ewes have higher body condition scores than Irish sheep. Following the conclusion of the speakers and a Q & A we moved on the podium number four, Better Farms.
This is a programme led by Michael Diskin and Frank Campion at the Athenry facility, and was developed with the help of sheep specialists.
Here we learned of the main aims of this programme, this was to help set up focal points for the implementation, development and evaluation of technologies on sheep farms.
We learned how all farmers themselves volunteered for the programme, and how only the progressively developed sheep farms were chosen.
The key elements of this podium were Grassland management, flock health and the importance of having a breeding plan. We heard about all the different production methods as well as the different results from the various different farms who had taken part. Again, there was time for a quick Q&A before moving onto the fifth stop of the day.
This stand was based upon research demo results, and offered us detailed information and results on research topics such as the proportion of lambs finished off grass (Prolificacy, stocking rates), we also got results on Animal performance (again with Prolificacy and stocking rates, days of lambing, carcass weights, days to slaughter) and last but not least there was also results on grass utilised per hectare, per ewe and per kg of carcass outputs.
Then we came to the Grassland village, perhaps one of the most impressive. Here we first were told about Teagasc’s Grass 10 programme, launched to help increase the amount of grass eaten by sheep to 10 t DM/ha and also to help farmers achieve 10 grazing’s per paddock per year.
This stand was broken up into the various different aspects of grassland management. First, we learned of the importance of paddocks, how they help improve animal performance, offer farmers greater flexibility and control and help improve grass production and utilisation.
Following this we were shown around different fencing systems, different grazing systems on offer, and also we received some in depth information on the latest technologies to help improve your grass management. This was done through a talk about PastureBase Ireland, an online database to help track your grass.
During the talk we received data received from some of the farmers currently using the system, and learned how it is helping them increase their grass production and then in turn increase profits.
Following one more small talk on feed conversion efficiency in ewes, then it was on to yet more valuable resources.
Upon completing the talk we arrived at the sheds, which were filled with stands offering information on topics such as hill farming, technology, insurance, Brexit, the Environment, quality meat and many more. There was also a farm safety demonstration, with demonstrations on how to properly drive a quad bike.
This also offered farmers a chance to have a look at some of the different sheep breeds up close, with various stalls holding some of the different breeds on offer.
The day was topped off with the receiving of a book with all the days information and one on the history of Teagasc. So we even received more knowledge and us heading on our way.
Overall was a very insightful day, full of knowledge and ideas for sheep farmers to take home and help improve the most important part of their farms, profit margins.