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Weekly Update: 27/11/15

Breed Society Meeting – Tuesday 15th December 2015

In September Sheep Ireland invited all breed society representatives to a meeting. We hope to hold these meetings at least twice each year and the next meeting will take place on Tuesday 15th December. Any LambPlus breeder that would like to raise any particular issue in this meeting should contact your Breed Society Chairman or Secretary, who has been invited to attend. The objective of these meetings is to increase the level of collaboration between Sheep Ireland and each Breed Society which will ultimately benefit all involved in the programme.

UK Sheep Breeders Roundtable Conference – Nottingham

Last weekend Sheep Ireland were invited to present at the SBRT three day conference in Nottingham. This biennial event is a coming together of sheep industry representatives from Europe and further afield. The overriding theme of the conference is performance recording and exploring the potential to promote and develop sheep genetic improvement. Sheep Ireland presented an update on progress since 2009 and plans for the future. The very best expertise in sheep genetic improvement was available over the course of the weekend and this made for a hugely interesting conference.

The main areas of interest for Sheep Ireland included:

  • Learning how other countries have approached data collection for their sheep evaluation systems. There are valuable lessons to be learned from all countries.
  • The challenges facing hill sheep recording – these challenges exist in all countries and are not unique to Ireland.
  • Across breed evaluations – the UK are trying to lay down the foundations for this to happen. Ireland have these foundations in place and we must now decide how and when we should publish this evaluation.
  • Sheep genomics and what it can potentially deliver sheep industries in Ireland and elsewhere.

Outside of the formal conference proceedings we spoke with a huge number of people specialising in various aspects of genetic improvement. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn from the successes and mistakes of other programmes and this will hopefully help us to maximise our own progress. In summary this was a well-organised, hugely interesting conference to attend which had something for everyone in attendance, from top geneticists to commercial sheep farmers interested in sheep breeding. For a full summary of the conference events and access to each speaker’s presentations click here or simply search for ‘Sheep breeders roundtable’ in your internet search engine.

Sheep Ireland Board Meeting 26th November

The latest Sheep Ireland Board meeting took place yesterday (Thursday) in Portlaoise. A number of topics were discussed throughout the meeting, a summary of which included:

  • Discussion on the upcoming breed society meeting taking place on Tuesday 15th December in the Maldron Hotel, Portlaoise. A number of the issues raised by individuals from our previous breed society meeting in September were discussed. We have made significant progress on all of these issues and we will be summarising all of these at the December meeting.
  • Circulation of the weekly update and the fact that some breeders have not been receiving this each week. The weekly update is critical to educating breeders and keeping everyone informed about our activities. We have been made aware of a small number of breeders not receiving this weekly update. We will attempt to identify these breeders in the coming weeks. Unfortunately we are somewhat dependent on breeders themselves to inform us that they have an email address and/or email address changes. We have made a huge effort in recent years to get an email address for all LambPlus breeders.
  • Publishing raw data for CPT rams. This has been requested from a number of breeders that have submitted rams to the CPT over the years. It has also been requested from commercial sheep farmers. After a long discussion at board level, it was decided that for now we will not publish the raw performance data for all CPT rams. We will provide each individual ram breeder that submits a CPT ram with a summary of the raw performance of their own ram, but we will not include the raw performance of other individual rams used in that year. An average of the performance of other rams of the same breed may be an option. There are a number of reasons why raw data on ram performance should not be published. There are too many farm specific effects that are not visible when viewing raw data – e.g. if one ram is used to mate younger sheep in a CPT flock – another ram happens to be used on more mature ewes – the performance of the lambs born from the mature ewes will always be better than the younger ewes. This is a ewe effect and not a ram effect. There are countless other farm effects that cannot be detected by looking at raw performance data. The genetic evaluation is the only place that such effects can be accounted for. This issue will be discussed at length at the next breed society meeting.
  • Future sheep KT (Knowledge Transfer) programme – Sheep Ireland have made a strong proposal for the inclusion of a ‘recorded ram’ element in the next sheep discussion group programme (Sheep KT). This proposal has been followed up by numerous meetings involving members of the Sheep Ireland Board. The sheep KT programme will have a different structure to the very successful Sheep Technology Adoption Programme (STAP). The new KT programmes for dairy, beef and sheep are EU schemes and must adhere to different legislation. The sheep KT programme is likely to be finalised in the coming weeks and Sheep Ireland will be doing all in our power to include a genetic improvement element.
  • EU sheep reflection group – James Murphy is representing Sheep Ireland on this important European forum. He commented that the fact that Sheep Ireland were invited to contribute to this group is evidence of our progress to date. The objective of this group is to look at the various issues facing sheep farming in Europe and make a number of recommendations. These recommendations will then play an important role in forming future EU policy for sheep industries across Europe.
  • Sheep Ireland finances – Sean Coughlan provided a summary of the Sheep Ireland expenditure for 2015.
  • Future generation of commercial data – A good discussion was had on how Sheep Ireland plan to generate more commercial data. Significant investments have been made in developing the Sheep Ireland database and web screens. This was a critical piece of work that will free up more office resources and facilitate easier data recording for all farmers, ram breeders and commercial farmers alike. Teagasc are collecting large volumes of data from their research farms and from the Better Farm Programme run by Ciaran Lynch. These flocks are becoming a major source of commercial data for Sheep Ireland.
  • Sheep Ireland regional meetings – The board were given a summary of all regional meetings and the main issues raised during the meetings were discussed. The attendance at these meetings were down on previous years and the Board showed concern that breeders are not using these meetings to educate themselves on the programme. Potential changes to the meeting structure were discussed. Making meeting attendance a compulsory requirement of joining the programme was also discussed.
  • In September 2008 Abacus Bio (NZ) made 20 recommendation to the Sheep Ireland Board on how to progress with a sheep breed improvement programme. Sean Coughlan presented these 20 recommendations to the Board and summarised that almost all have been met successfully. One noticeable outstanding objective is greater collaboration with our lamb processors. The establishment of routine slaughter data transfer to Sheep Ireland is an area of focus in the coming months. The full Abacus Bio recommendation document is available to the public on under ‘Publications’ and ‘Reference documents’. You can also click here to find the document.

Any member of LambPlus with specific queries about any of the above can contact Sheep Ireland or the board member representing your group/organisation. A full list of board members can be found here.