Commercial data is the key to improving breeding indexes – Noirin McHugh of Teagasc

“The more commercial data we can gather will not only improve the breeding indexes, but it will also allow the farmer to pick the best possible ram to run with his ewes,” according to Noirin McHugh of Teagasc.

McHugh was speaking today, Tuesday, January 28, at the Teagasc National Sheep Conference, in the Great Southern Hotel, Killarney, Co. Kerry.

There were three other speakers on the night. These included David Wall and Orla Keane of Teagasc and John O’Connell who is a participant in the Teagasc Better Farm Sheep Programme.

The four presentations on the night are listed (below):

  • Efficient nutrient use: Meeting production and environmental targets on sheep farms;
  • Commercial data: How it is of benefit to breeding indexes;
  • Anthelmintic resistance in stomach and gut worms of sheep;
  • Growing the farm; the challenges and progress to-date.

Breeding indexes

The second speaker on the night was Noirin McHugh. Her presentation focused on breeding and the importance of gathering more data from commercial flocks to improve the sheep breeding indexes.

McHugh explained: “Sheep Ireland has made a lot of progress over the past 10 years – especially since 2014.

“The amount of data from commercial flocks has increased massively since 2014, with many farmers realising the benefits of data recording and how it can be beneficial and profitable for their sheep enterprise.

The only way we are going to improve the genetics within flocks is if farmers start recording straight away when the lambs hit the ground.

“Data such as birth weight, lamb mortality and lambing difficulty should be recorded straight away when the lamb is born.

“In order for farmers to breed the best rams and replacement females we need to increase the data in the system.

Over 15,000 lambs have been evaluated for €uro-star values, which is great, but we need more.

She added: “Also, more information needs to be gathered on cast ewes and the reasons behind them being culled from the flock. If we can get hold of that information then we can put it to use and improve the indexes.

“I would encourage farmers to make use of the €uro-star indexes because they allow farmers to make a more informed decision prior to buying a ram for use on their flock.

“The profitability of a sheep enterprise is reliant on the number of lambs born. Therefore, having a ram that is fit for purpose is extremely important,” McHugh concluded.