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Friday 28 July 2017

Ovine All Blacks are top of the flocks in Athenry

Teagasc’s Fiona McGovern said they hoped the trial of ewes and rams brought over in 2014 and 2015 from New Zealand would yield benefits for all sheep farmers in the future.
Teagasc’s Fiona McGovern said they hoped the trial of ewes and rams brought over in 2014 and 2015 from New Zealand would yield benefits for all sheep farmers in the future.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

An elite flock of ewes imported by Teagasc Athenry from New Zealand are delivering higher lamb output than the best of their Irish counterparts.

Teagasc's Noirin McHugh said the early results of the trial involving 100 ovine All-Blacks showed their lambs record higher daily gains and were finishing at 155 days, compared to 164 days for lambs from their elite Irish counterparts.

"There are some farmers who would like to try out the New Zealand rams but we haven't released any for sale yet," said Ms McHugh.

"The big thing that the Irish farmers are looking for is the easy lambing and the fact our results are showing they have less lambing difficulty and require less labour at lambing seems to be the big advantage."

Two rams were put out on the Teagasc BETTER farms last year to assess how they are performing on commercial flocks.

The Teagasc trial of 180 ewes is comparing the New Zealand Suffolk-Texel cross ewes to an Irish high Euro-Star Suffolk -Texel flock and a low ranked flock.

The study reported similar birth weights but found that only 2.2pc of the Kiwi flock had birthing difficulties compared to 13pc of the elite Irish and 9pc of the low ranked Irish flocks.

This may be due to an emphasis over many years on easy lambing on larger farms in New Zealand, said Ms McHugh.


The ewe milk yield was higher in the New Zealand flock, but overall lamb mortality was 6pc. This compared to 3.6pc in the elite Irish, and 9.7pc in the low Irish.

Traits

However, 96pc of the New Zealand lambs were drafted from grass, compared with 82pc of the elite Irish and just 69pc of the low index Irish.

"The New Zealand ewe is definitely performing well in the Irish system on the traits we have measured to date," said Ms McHugh.

"The good news for the sheep indexes here is the five star ewe is outperforming the one star. You are producing a heavier lamb and more of those live lambs on the ground. It is good to see the indexes are following through."

Dr McHugh added that the trial would help them to look at the different emphasis the New Zealand index may be targetting to get increased benefits for sheep farmers.

She said it would indicate whether they should put increased weighting on lambing difficulty.


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