Lyons ready for season as lambing trials set to start
This is the busiest week of the year for the sheep flock at UCD's research farm at Lyons, with around 300 ewes and ewe lambs expected to have lambed down by Saturday.
Luckily we have a group of 24 students from UCD who have volunteered to help out in the 24-hour supervision, in addition to the Lyons farm staff, with Stephen Lott and Philip Brady in charge during the days and nights respectively. This year's volunteers are a mixture of mainly second year Agricultural Science and Veterinary Medicine students.
The Lyons flock is predominantly a Belclare cross, but for teaching purposes we keep a number of different breeds, including Swaledale, Blackface Mountain, Mule, Greyface, Cheviot, Suffolk, Suffolk cross, Beltex, Texel, Charollais and Vendeen. We also have a Border Leicester ram and a Bluefaced Leicester ram this year, so we are going to produce our own Mules and Greyfaces.
All of the ewes were inseminated by laparoscopic AI this year for the second time. This means the semen is deposited directly into the horns of the uterus, with a view to giving a higher conception rate. Welsh operator Innovis managed to get more than 350 ewes artificially inseminated in one day.
Dr Alan Fahey, our animal breeding specialist, is using the Lyons flock as part of Sheep Ireland's central progeny testing programme, and the flock was bred using nine rams from five breeds -- Texel, Belclare, Vendeen, Charollais and Suffolk.
At birth, the lambing difficulty, weight and sex will be recorded for each lamb and used to collate information on the sires.
The ewes were housed slightly earlier than usual, in December, due to the poor weather conditions and, following scanning, were batched and fed according to litter size. Twin-carrying hoggets and ewes were fed 0.75-0.8kg of meal and single-carrying ewes got 0.6kg.