‘Sticking with what we have and selecting superior genetics seen as the way forward’

Sticking with what we have and selecting for superior genetics rather than importing genetics from New Zealand is seen as the way forward for Irish sheep farmers, according to Nicola Featherstone.

Nicola was speaking at the first of two virtual Teagasc Sheep Conferences which were held yesterday evening (Tuesday, January 26).

Teagasc Walsh Scholar Nicola gave an update on the INZAC trial in Teagasc Athenry, Co. Galway, which compares 1-star and 5-star Irish ewes with elite New Zealand ewes.

One question put to Nicola during yesterday’s session was how relevant did she think New Zealand sheep are in an Irish context and if they are far superior to what we have here in Ireland?

She explained: “During my time in New Zealand, along with visiting a number of farms, I also collaborated with a consultancy company and over there we generated a model and that model looked at all different scenarios that we could put into practice here in Ireland.

For example, whether or not we would look at importing New Zealand genetics or should we stick with what we have here in Ireland or maybe a mixture of both.

“From looking at the results, it showed that the benefit, in terms of genetics and economics, would be greater for the Irish industry if we stuck with what we have rather than importing New Zealand genetics, as long as we source our genetics from more progressive breeders.

“So, essentially, it means that we need commercial farmers to drive demand towards sourcing animals of superior genetics.

“If we stick with the system we have which identifies the elite animals, in terms of being 5-stars, then this is the best way forward for Irish sheep farmers.”