It’s boomtime for sheep - still 'significant scope' to increase margins on sheep farms
Breeding ewe numbers have surged but the scope for better margins in the sector was the key message at the Teagasc Sheep Open Day event in Athenry, reports Louise Hogan
Breeding ewe numbers have surged by almost a third to 2.6 million, with improved lamb prices and reduced feed costs helping to drive the increase.
And Teagasc expert Michael Diskin told farmers at the Sheep 2017 event in Athenry that there was still “significant scope” to increase margins through improved grassland management and breeding.
The early data from the Teagasc 2016 National Farm Survey showed an average gross margin of €595 per hectare for lowland mid-season lambing flocks.
However, the top one third of flocks generated a gross margin of €1,329 per hectare compared to €268 per hectare for the bottom third.
Increasing the prolificacy of a ewe to deliver higher lamb numbers significantly increased lamb carcass output per hectare, said Teagasc’s Philip Creighton.
“We can increase the prolificacy — there is no increase in feed demand, we get the same number of lambs finished from grass but we get more lambs finished per unit area,” he said.
“Prolificacy is the first step — it increases your profitability straight away as you are diluting all your other costs.
“The ewe has to be maintained for the year regardless, so if she is giving you less lambs she is costing you the same but she is giving you less back,” he said.