Lamb Plus is a boost for breeders
At this stage lambing is drawing to a close on many sheep farms. On farms that are involved in producing pedigree rams for sale, the lambing will almost certainly be finished and with stock out and the sun shining, it's time to do a bit of office work.
By office work I mean entering the performance data of your lambs on Lamb Plus. Many breeders simply do not know enough about Lamb Plus and may therefore be reluctant to join. Below I have answered some of the more common queries regarding joining the scheme.
What is Lamb Plus?
Lamb Plus is a relatively new initiative that was set up and is run by Sheep Ireland, an offshoot of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF). Last year (2009) the first pedigree rams came onto the market with Euro Star ratings for various production traits. These Euro Star ratings are similar to those in the beef industry which have, at this stage, been widely accepted by commercial farmers as being an important tool in selecting breeding stock.
In addition, research has clearly demonstrated that the progeny of five-star bulls are worth more than the progeny of bulls with fewer stars. Similar research is now being carried out in commercially managed sheep flocks to compare rams and validate the data behind the Lamb Plus Euro Star ratings.
What are the benefits?
Participating in Lamb Plus allows pedigree breeders to evaluate not only the lambs that they will be selling but also the ewe lambs that they will be keeping as flock replacements. This allows the breeder to make better decisions about which stock should be retained and what animals should be culled or run on as commercial sheep.
On the ram side of things commercial breeders are becoming ever more interested in high-merit rams. Experience with Euro Star on the cattle front confirms that farmers can quickly identify stock that help them reach their breeding objectives. Last year, good-quality stock with high indices commanded premium prices at pedigree ram sales. It is likely that, as more commercial sheep farmers become acquainted with the indices, the demand for high-index rams will rise.