Sheep Ireland (www.sheep.ie) continued to make excellent progress in 2017, with strong leadership from its Chairman, James Murphy, and a strong development team operating under the stewardship of Eamon Wall and Kevin McDermott. Commercial and pedigree farmers continue to become much more aware of the existence of the EuroStar indexes, and how they can play a significant role is removing the risk around ram purchases, and help the industry to ensure that it does not lose ground to other countries in terms of gains through genetic progress.
The commercial farms that make up the CPT programme have again put in a huge amount of work this year, and data coming from these farms is hugely valuable in generating accurate genetic evaluations for Sheep.
LambPlus has again expanded in 2017, and numbers are continuing to rise. This means that over 40% of the rams sold this year would have EuroStar figures available. The challenge is to get this number to rise again in 2018, and current indications are that this is achievable.
In 2017, farmers continued to use Euro-Stars as a tool in their purchasing decisions on rams. We again had a very successful LambPlus Sale in Tullamore. The fact the Eurostar concept is similar to that in cattle also helps in this regard. It is critical for the success of Sheep Ireland that (a) farmers use the indexes in their purchasing decisions and (b) that the performance of the sheep correlate with the indexes – i.e. high index sheep perform more profitably that low index sheep.
The output from the OVIGEN project is creating some very exciting opportunities for Sheep in the area of genomics, and we look forward to further reaping the rewards of this research in 2018 as we look to implement genomic evaluations for sheep.
Irish Sheep farming is benefitting from the unique partnership that exists between Government and the sheep industry. The ability of Sheep Ireland to put DAFM funding (leveraged by Farmer Funding) to good use is widely acknowledged, especially when we benchmark Sheep Ireland’s work with what is happening elsewhere in Europe. Without DAFM support it would be impossible for Sheep Ireland to deliver to the industry and wider community. We are most fortunate to operate in an environment where Sheep Ireland vision is shared by our Board, DAFM, Teagasc, and, most importantly, Irish Sheep Farmers.