5 reasons why farmers should attend the upcoming National Sheep Conferences

The latest research and advice for sheep farmers will be available at the two upcoming Teagasc National Sheep Conferences.

An excellent line up of speakers will speak at both conferences and they will touch on a number of topics, including: grass; nutrition; ram lamb management; and diseases.

1. Making more use of grass

How to achieve more from grazing systems in sheep production will be addressed by Teagasc’s Dr. Philip Creighton. He thinks that huge potential exists on almost all sheep farms in Ireland to increase the level of grass grown and utilised.

Philip identifies five key areas that sheep farmers should focus on. These include: soil fertility; grazing groups; a grazing management plan; measurement/budgeting; and reseeding.

Teagasc’s sheep demonstration farm in Athenry, Co. Galway, has provided five years of results, which lay out a clear blueprint on how to profitably increase lamb output at farm level through growing and grazing more grass.

sheep census, Met Eireann, lambs

2. Late pregnancy feeding of ewes

UCD’s Prof. Tommy Boland will address the late pregnancy feeding of ewes. His paper will focus on setting targets for the lambing season and subsequent lamb performance.

In addition, he will outline how nutritional management of the ewe during late pregnancy will allow you to achieve these targets.

Boland will provide a range of easy to implement management solutions that will allow for successful management of the key late pregnancy period.

3. Is there a need to castrate ram lambs?

Prof. Michael Diskin will present the latest results coming from a study on the impacts of leaving lambs entire; focusing specifically on lamb performance and subsequent meat quality.

This has been a contentious issue among farmers, processors and consumers. Results show that ram lambs are faster growing, have leaner carcasses and are more efficient at converting feed to carcass gain – all of which are important production advantages.

But, there is a greater likelihood of small increases in the occurrence of some off-flavours and odours with meat from ram lambs compared to castrated lambs. However, the differences are small and also occur with meat from a proportion of castrated lambs.

4. Getting to grips with emerging diseases

The importance of emerging diseases – often referred to as ‘iceberg diseases‘ in sheep – will be addressed by Dr. Fiona Lovatt, a sheep veterinary consultant from England.

An iceberg disease is a term used by the medical profession to describe a disease which has a large number of undiagnosed cases, so that what is seen clinically is a small representation of the total.

In the sheep industry, it is a phrase that is generally used to described diseases that are insidious, production limiting, slow in onset and diagnostically challenging.

Examples of iceberg diseases:
  • OPA (jaagsiekte);
  • Ovine Johne’s disease;
  • CLA (caseous lymphadenitis);
  • Maedi visna (MV);
  • Border disease.

With the exception of border disease, all of these diseases are notifiable to the Department of Agriculture in Ireland.

Dr. Lovett will discuss the symptoms, survival, spread, diagnosis and control options for these increasingly important sheep diseases.

5. Knowledge transfer

Both of the conferences are Department of Agriculture approved Knowledge Transfer (KT) sheep events. Farmers participating in the programme will be able to sign in beforehand to comply with the requirements of the scheme.

When and where?

The conferences will take place on Tuesday, January 30, in the Loughrea Hotel and Spa, Loughrea, Co. Galway, and again on Thursday, February 1, in the Nuremore Hotel, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan. Both of the events begin at 6:00pm.