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Weekly Update: 19/02/16

Visit to SRUC in Edinburgh

This week Sheep Ireland travelled with Teagasc geneticists to the Roslyn Institute in Edinburgh, for a meeting with SRUC and other stakeholders involved in sheep breed improvement in the UK. This was a scientific meeting with updates on genetic and genomic evaluations in sheep in both countries. There are very close genetic links between Irish and UK pedigree sheep breeds so it makes huge sense for both countries to keep up to speed with projects in each respective country.


Teagasc Hill Sheep Conference

A large crowd attended the Teagasc hill conference in Ballybofey, Co. Donegal this week and Sheep Ireland was in attendance. Performance recording in hill sheep breeds is lagging far behind that in existence in our lowland sheep. There are many reasons for this including practical difficulties of recording outdoors, lower financial returns from hill farming in general and an absence of any flockbook structure within each of hill sheep breeds/strains.

Establishing flockbooks for these hill sheep breeds must be a priority for the industry. Improvement of these sheep populations and measuring progress will be impossible in the absence of some form of record keeping. Ancestry recording is the critical first step to implementing any form of breed improvement programme. Sheep Ireland is working with a number of different hill sheep groups around Ireland and we are encouraging more breeders to get involved in the process.

For many hill sheep breeders performance recording is a daunting concept, however performance recording will come in time. For now ancestry recording can deliver many benefits including tracking certain bloodlines, controlling inbreeding etc. Some hill breeders fear that the accuracy of ancestry recording in hill environments is questionable, however, with some DNA parentage verification each year, this can be monitored and improved on.


Mayo-Connemara Hill Sheep Performance Recording

Breeders of Mayo-Connemara sheep are entering another year of ancestry and performance recording. This group has been making great progress in recent years. Breeders have access to their own personal MayoConnemara flock account on the Sheep Ireland database and most breeders are entering their annual lambing data directly into the website. A growing number of breeders are recording ancestry data at this stage but the ideal situation would be for all MC breeders to record their purebred sheep onto the Sheep Ireland database. This would allow the group to easily produce pedigree certs and sales catalogues for the benefit of all breeders and buyers of MC sheep.

The image shows from left to right – John Noonan (Teagasc Westport), MC performance recording breeder, Steven Lally and Jonathon Conway ram buyer. The picture was taken at the MayoConnemara ram sale last year where Steven sold this high Index MC ram on the day.