Why every sheep farmer should go to Teagasc’s BETTER sheep farm walks

Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, will host a series of BETTER Farm Sheep Programme walks in the coming days.

The programme is led from Athenry by Teagasc’s Michael Diskin and Frank Campion and has been developed in collaboration with Teagasc sheep specialists.

Teagasc representatives, along with the three farmers involved, will discuss a number of relevant topics at the upcoming farm walks. These events will focus specifically on grassland management, breeding and production methods.

See some of the best sheep farms in the country

The open days will give farmers an opportunity to see exactly how some of the best sheep farmers in the country operate.

The first open day will take place tomorrow, July 12, on Tomas O’Leary’s farm in Rosnacarton Beg, Co. Kerry.

O’Leary’s main objective on entering the BETTER Farm Sheep Programme was to generate an overall gross margin of over €1,000/ha for his farm.

To achieve this, he has focused on improving grassland management, soil fertility and farm layout. In addition, animal performance is monitored closely on the farm and this information is then used to make appropriate management decisions.

Athenry sheep

The second farm walk in the series takes place on John O’Connell’s farm in Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim on July 19. One of O’Connell’s key aims since joining the programme was to increase his ewe flock to 200.

Another important step taken by O’Connell was the introduction of prolific sires to increase production and to hit an output level of more than 1.6 lambs weaned per ewe joined for his ewe flock.

The final farm walk in the series will take place on Brian Nicholson’s farm in Johnstown, Co. Kilkenny on July 26.

Brian and his wife Alison run a sheep enterprise on 108ha of grassland in Co. Kilkenny. In recent years, the husband-and-wife team has steadily increased the farm’s ewe numbers.

The Johnsons have adopted the latest technologies in sheep farming and are using electronic identification (EID) and data recording systems to monitor ewe performance on their farm.

The Johnsons are also excellent grassland managers and practice reseeding, grass measuring and the use of a paddock grazing system on their farm.

All three of the open days kick off at 2:00pm.

Knowledge Transfer approved sheep event

Farmers participating in the Knowledge Transfer (KT) scheme are required to attend five farm meetings or four meetings and one Department of Agriculture approved KT event.

The three events outlined above have all received approval from the Department of Agriculture and farmers participating in the KT scheme are encouraged to sign in with the department at the beginning of each event.

Grassland management

Teagasc experts will also give farmers an update on the best practices in grassland management. They will specifically focus on paddock grazing systems, soil fertility and reseeding programmes.

Each of the farmers involved in the programme will outline the changes they have made to their grazing systems and the resulting benefits they have seen.

Breeding and performance

Another key topic up for discussion at the events is breeding and performance. All of the lowland farmers involved in the programme have a target of weaning more than 1.6 lambs per ewe joined.

Presentations will be given on the importance of selecting rams on the basis of both the terminal and replacement indices.

Participating farmers are implementing an individual animal performance recording programme for all sheep on the farm. This is based on EID recording results.

Farmers visiting the open days will be given an update on ewe performance (litter size and mortality) and lamb performance.

Lamb weight is monitored at birth, seven weeks-of-age, 14 weeks-of-age and slaughter.