EU-wide drive to increase the productivity of sheep farms

SheepNet – an EU-wide drive – is examining possible avenues to increase the productivity of the European sheep flock.

Involving the six main EU sheep-producing countries and Turkey, SheepNet recently held its second transnational workshop in Romania.

The workshop was attended by over 60 participants who represented stakeholders from the seven SheepNet countries (Ireland, France, UK, Italy, Romania, Spain and Turkey). These were joined by a delegation from Hungary.

Teagasc’s Dr. Tim Keady, the Irish facilitator of the project, said: “The meeting focused on the sharing and exchange of solutions to improve sheep productivity.

“A total of 55 solutions, from all partner countries, were presented in four solution markets. Each solution market fostered interaction among delegates and provided opportunity to share knowledge and experiences.

Each country had the opportunity to select solutions that would be relevant to improving sheep productivity in their respective countries.

“The consensus of the meeting was that solutions for many of the issues/problems influencing sheep productivity are readily available from other countries/regions across Europe,” he said.

Representatives from Ireland at the SheepNet transnational workshop in Romania

The importance of productivity

Keady also stated that ewe productivity (number of lambs reared per ewe joined) is a combination of reproductive success; embryonic and lamb survival; and litter size.

“SheepNet is designed to stimulate knowledge exchange between research and stakeholders to widely disseminate best practices and innovations, with the objective of increasing ewe productivity.

“The EU is only 85% self-sufficient in sheepmeat and is the largest importer of sheepmeat worldwide. An increase in EU ewe productivity by 0.1 lambs reared per ewe joined would increase self-sufficiency in sheepmeat to 92%.

“Ewe productivity is one of the main factors impacting on the profitability of prime lamb production,” he said.