Diary date: What’s on the agenda at the IGA sheep conference?

The Irish Grassland Association (IGA) will host its annual sheep conference in the Horse and Jockey Hotel, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, on May 22.

This year’s conference – sponsored by MSD Animal Health and Mullinahone Co-op – will focus on making the most of the available resources on sheep farms, while an afternoon visit to well-known sheep farmer, John Large, will conclude the event.

The conference

A host of industry speakers will take to the stage as part of the conference.

Kevin McDermott and Eamon Wall – both of Sheep Ireland – will discuss the main milestones that have been achieved over the past 10 years of the Sheep Ireland programme. They’ll also reveal what the future may hold for sheep breeding in Ireland.

In addition, Mathew Blyth – flock manager of Didling Farms, West Sussex – will give an overview of the system, which carries 1,000 ewes and incorporates a combination of grassland, plantain, chicory and red clover leys.

Mathew has adopted the mantra that ‘you can manage what you can measure’. Through embracing technology, particularly the use of EID (electronic identification), he’s sought to improve efficiency in the flock.

Farm visit

The event will conclude with a visit to John Large’s farm, which is home to a flock of 630 mature ewes, 160 ewe lambs and a suckler enterprise of 35 autumn-calving cows.

Farming 80ha, John has always adopted a progressive approach to new initiatives helping drive the sheep industry forward. He’s one of the Central Progeny Test (CPT) flocks working with Sheep Ireland and was one of the original participants in the programme since it began in 2010.

The sheep system makes up the main part of the farming enterprise, with all progeny – excluding replacements – taken to finish under a high-output system.

A challenge posed by having such large numbers lambing at one time is the need for sufficient amounts of grass at turnout. John has focused efforts to ensure sufficient ground is rested from October on to have reserves built up for spring.

Increasing the amount of divisions on the farm and investments in fencing infrastructure have aided in this process. Achieving high levels of performance from grass is key for this flock; with the high-stocking rate, good levels of performance are needed to meet drafting targets.

Pre-booking essential

This year’s IGA sheep conference and farm walk will take place on May 22 at the Horse and Jockey Hotel, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, from 9:30am to 5:00pm.

Pre-booking is essential as places are limited. For further information and to book your place, visit the Irish Grassland Association website.