Grassland issues take centre stage at Sheep2018

Athenry event will also see launch of 'Project Baa Baa'

Photo Brian Farrell
Photo Brian Farrell

Siobhán English

Grassland, breeding, health & safety and environment are among the key topics to be covered during Sheep2018 Farm to Fork at Teagasc, Athenry on Saturday.

Each topic will be covered in a separate area throughout the complex which will also encompass commercial exhibits and sheep breed shows.

Of particular interest will be the Grassland Village, which will cover all aspects associated with grassland management, soil fertility grass measurement and budgeting, grazing infrastructure, reseeding and information on on-going grassland research studies.

At the Flock Health Village, industry and RVL veterinarians, DAFM staff and Teagasc research and advisory staff will be available to address issues such as internal and external parasites, infectious abortions, vaccinations and lameness.

As in previous sheep events there will be a significant focus on processing and marketing of both sheep meat and live animals.

Bord Bia will be co-ordinating factory displays of retail product and processors will have staff on hand to discuss market specifications and outlook.

Teagasc and industry staff will be on hand to discuss the clean livestock policy, selecting lambs for slaughter and tagging and recording requirements.

With Galway awarded the European Region of Gastronomy, there will be a significant emphasis on food this year.

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This is the first time that food will be incorporated into the open day, during which a new initiative, Project Baa Baa, will be officially launched.


Project Baa Baa celebrates all aspects of sheep production from fabric to meat, cheeses, weaving, knitting and fashion.

Local artisan food will be on display during the day, as will an exhibition on the heritage of food.

Prompted by the huge interest in establishing new food companies and the development of the BIA Innovator Campus at Teagasc, Athenry, stands providing the full suite of information relating to establishing a food company will be available to assist new entrepreneurs.

The Food Village will feature talks from Dr Emily Crofton from Teagasc who heads up the national sensory science network, Sensory Food Network Ireland.

Breeders and producers will be particularly keen to learn more about a comparison study between Irish and New Zealand sheep conducted by Dr Fiona McGovern of Teagasc.

The INZAC flock was established at Teagasc, Athenry between 2014 and 2015 with the purchase of ewes and rams from Ireland and New Zealand.

The flock consists of 180 ewes split into three treatment groups - elite New Zealand ewes, elite Irish ewes (genetically superior) and low index Irish ewes (genetically inferior).

The experiment began in autumn 2015 when the ewes were mated and will run for a four-year period.

The aim of the study is to validate the Sheep Ireland replacement genetic index and to compare elite New Zealand genetics with Irish-bred ewes and determine the suitability of such genetics for use in Irish grass-based production systems.

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