Reminder: Hill Sheep Conference on in Mayo tonight

The Teagasc Hill Sheep Conference will take place in the Knockranny House Hotel, Westport, Co. Mayo, this evening (Wednesday, February 21).

At the upcoming event, Teagasc director Prof. Gerry Boyle will outline how the Irish Hill Sheep sector plays an important role in the economic health of rural areas and the maintenance of the natural landscape in many of Ireland’s most scenic areas.

He will also point to how low margins, coupled with reduced support payments and often depressed markets for store hill lambs, has seen the sector decline over the last two decades.

Opportunities have been identified, however. Teagasc sheep enterprise leader, Prof. Michael Diskin, highlights the significant untapped potential of the hill ewe, both in the hill environment, and as the dam of prolific cross-bred ewes for the lowlands.

The Scottish Blackface hill ewe is very hardy and resilient breed and is hugely responsive to improved nutrition.

Results emerging from the Teagasc BETTER Farm Hill Sheep Programme show that significant improvements in productivity and profitability are possible from relatively small changes in the main drivers of productivity.

The results emerging from ongoing studies with finishing of hill lambs in Teagasc Athenry also provide a clear roadmap for increasing the value of the hill lamb.

Dr. Frank Campion, Teagasc Athenry, will outline to farmers the critical steps in exploiting the full potential of hill flocks.

He will cover the measures that farmers need to put in place to increase profitability in a hill sheep production system – target weaning rates, target weaning weights, flock health and financial targets for profitable hill sheep systems.

Joe Scahill from Westport, who won the Sheep Farmer of the year 2017, will give his experience of how he built up his own sheep enterprise. Joe is well known in County Mayo as a leading hill sheep producer and has grown his business over the last number of years, according to Teagasc.

Dr. Jason Barley and Patrick Grant of AFBI Northern Ireland will present a paper on Jaagsiekte – this disease causes lung cancer in sheep and is becoming more common. This paper will give farmers the most up-to-date information on how to spot this disease and what actions they should take.

John Walsh of Irish Country Meats will cover the marketing of lamb including hill lambs.

In the current climate, where Brexit is on the horizon, it will be important for farmers to hear processors’ plans for marketing hill lamb.

A booklet summarising technical issues in hill sheep production is available on the Teagasc website.