Globetrotting ovine 'All Blacks' are valued at €800 per ewe
FARMERS WILL get their first glimpse of the €80,000 Kiwi flock that has been assembled by Teagasc at the Sheep2015 event in Athenry this Saturday.
The 100 ovine 'All-Blacks' have been selected by Teagasc researchers over the last two years to compare the top New Zealand genetics against the best of their Irish counterparts.
The widespread use of genomics by New Zealand sheep farmers has helped the country develop an annual rate of genetic improvement that is three times the norm here.
"The annual rate of increase in profitability due to genetics in New Zealand is about €1/hd," said Teagasc's Nóirín McHugh, who has played a central role in the project.
"In Ireland, the figure is closer to 30c/hd. Most of the gains are stemming from better growth rates and meat yield," she said.
She said that the best New Zealand flocks were selling 1.8 lambs per ewe, and weaning lambs at 32-35kg from a 100pc grass diet.
"There is a shift in New Zealand where farmers are not as keen to push ewes during the dry period in order to maintain body weights," said Dr McHugh, speaking from New Zealand's South Island city of Dunedin, where she has spent the last six weeks working on sheep research.
However, the Teagasc specialist is hopeful that Irish sheep farmers will be able to rapidly make up the genetic difference between the two countries through the adoption of genomic testing, which will be rolled out as part of a new €1m genomics project over the next two years. She also expects more data from the meat factories on carcase characteristics such as weights and confirmation to also feed into the programme.