Number of LambPlus flocks jumps by 110 to over 850

The Sheep Ireland performance recording programme LambPlus has seen another increase in pedigree ram breeder participants for 2021.

Speaking to AgriLand, Eamon Wall of Sheep Ireland said: “Participation has grown year-on-year since the LambPlus programme began back in 2009. The number of flocks now involved in LambPlus now stands at over 850 flocks.

“This marks the highest level of performance recording ever in Ireland which is hugely positive for Irish commercial sheep farmers. All performance recording pedigree flocks receive €uroStar genetic indexes from Sheep Ireland for their stock and, in turn, this information is available for commercial sheep farmers when purchasing breeding rams for their flock.

Regular validation work carried out by Sheep Ireland and Teagasc shows that high €uroStar rams significantly out-perform low €uroStar rams on all the key performance traits – leading to a more profitable enterprise.

“Genetic improvement is a powerful tool that has been successfully exploited by many livestock industries, but significant scope exists within the Irish sheep industry to make progress in this area.

“Higher levels of participation in LambPlus by pedigree ram breeders around Ireland is resulting in higher availability of €uroStar rams, allowing commercial farmers to make a more informed decision when buying a ram.

“The percentage increase seen in LambPlus participation for 2021 is extremely encouraging. Overall, the increase in LambPlus numbers is over 15% on 2020 levels. The increases across individual breeds vary by breed with some seeing major increases in participation, while others less so.

“Individual societies have been very proactive in terms of designing incentives to entice their breeders to join LambPlus and this has had very positive results. This will also bode well for these societies in terms of genetic progress for their breeds, ensuring they will continue to deliver for Irish commercial farmers on the ground.

We expect to see over 25,000 pedigree ewes and their lambs’ performance recorded in 2021. Unfortunately, these performance recorded pedigree lambs will only serve approximately one-third of the total ram demand for the country.

“This illustrates the potential for growth that still exists. Approximately 40% of all rams annually originate from within a breed society structure. The remaining 60% of rams come from non-breed society members where the absence of any record-keeping makes progress of any kind impossible.

“Sheep Ireland is committed to working with Irish sheep breed societies to continue to increase their presence in the annual breeding ram trade.

“Commercial flock performance recording is also on the increase. It’s free to sign up for commercial flocks and flocks will have free access to our LambPlus recording phone app. Commercial flocks can join LambPlus any time up to lambing.”