The Sheep Ireland Breeding Conference & Farm Walk will be hosted on the 12th July and the LambPlus award ceremony will also be held this say with the overall winner of the highest achieving LambPlus flock being announced. The winner will receive a cash prize of €1,000, an engraved trophy and bragging rights for the year ahead. The two other finalists will receive a cash prize of €500 and a framed award. FBD kindly sponsors the LambPlus awards. Flocks were selected based on a number of criteria including the genetic merit of the flock based on the Replacement & Terminal Index, the DQI of the flock and the Accuracy of the breeding values within the flock. These awards are to acknowledge the effort and contribution that these breeders are making to the National Sheep Industry.
Liam Delaney is one of three finalists for this year’s Highest Achieving LambPlus Flock. The Coolgarragh flock was established over 25 years ago and is located south of Athy, Co. Kildare. Liam has been performance recording with LambPlus since it started in 2008 and lambed down 56 purebred Belclare ewes in 2022.
Liam says his focus has been to breed sheep to meet the needs of commercial sheep farmers. Over the years, Liam has tried to maintain a balance between breed characteristics, €uroStar values, and diverse bloodlines. Liam has also genomically tested every mature ewe in the flock (With help in the form of a subsidy from the Belclare Sheep Society), helping to eliminate parentage errors and increase the accuracy of the evaluations for his ewes and rams.
The Belclare is unique compared to the other larger breeds in Ireland in that there is no option to bring in new genetics from abroad as they are only established here in Ireland. This means that breeders have a more difficult job managing bloodlines to keep inbreeding to a minimum. However, the benefit of a well-related flockbook is that the Belclare breed has excellent genetic linkage, which results in more accurate evaluations, in turn leading to better and more informed breeding decisions.
Data accuracy is essential to Liam, he makes a big effort to record the lambing data, weights and breeding information required, and this is reflected in the 90% DQI score that the flock boasts.
When selecting which ram to mate with which ewe, Liam tries to match the rams that will improve the weakest elements of the ewe’s breeding. So, for example, a ewe with a poor rating for days to slaughter would be matched with a ram with excellent days to slaughter.
This attention to data collection and careful mating selections has resulted in the average Replacement and Terminal index for Liam 2022 lambs standing at €6.96 and €1.48, respectively or another way of looking at it, out of the 79 2022 lambs in his flock, 72 (91%) of them are 4 Star or 5 Star on the Replacement or Terminal Index.
One of the best rams that Liam used this year was a homebred ram called COOLGARRAGH GIORGIO who has bred 39 lambs across 4 flocks in 2020. COOLGARRAGH GIORGIO is a great example of the progress that has been made in the breed improvement scheme in recent years as the ram has almost 3 generations of fully genomically tested ancestors.