Research programme is well worth the high price
I returned to one of my old stomping grounds recently, Teagasc Athenry, for the launch of its new sheep research programme. The main thrust of this programme includes:
•A new research project;
•An expanded BETTER sheep farm programme;
•Increased collaboration with UCD and Lyons Estate.
The new research project will look at the effects of prolificacy and stocking rate on lamb growth rate, carcass output per hectare, labour requirements and ultimately profitability per hectare. The comparison will involve two groups, each of 180 ewes, one group with a potential weaning rate of 1.5 lambs per ewe to the ram and the other group weaning 1.8 lambs.
Each of these groups will then be subdivided and farmed at three different stocking rates; a low stocking rate (10 ewes/ha), a medium stocking rate (12 ewes/ha) and a high stocking rate (14 ewes/ha). These six combinations of weaning rate and stocking rate will each be operated as a mid-season grass-based system on their own individual self-contained farmlet.
I believe it to be a very good project that probably should have been carried out years ago. It will be interesting to see the effect of stocking rate and litter size on lamb growth rate and how lambs will be finished without concentrates, particularly those on the higher prolificacy and stocking rate systems.
It will also be interesting to know whether the parasite challenge differs across systems and whether some systems require more frequent worm dosing. Finally, the research will provide definitive information as to the profitability of each system.