Eamon Wall of Sheep Ireland spoke about the SusSheP project and what it hopes to achieve at the ICBF & Sheep Ireland Genetics Conference which took place on Wednesday 5th and Thursday 6th December in the Hudson Bay Hotel, Athlone. SusSheP is a European Research Area Network (ERA-NET) research project on Sustainable Sheep Production (SusSheP) involving partners from Ireland, UK, Norway and France. SusSheP is a 3 year project which began in April 2017.
SusSheP is an example of how innovative research projects can lay the foundations for future significant developments for organisations such as Sheep Ireland. SusSheP will focus on three main areas – Ewe Longevity, Labour and Carbon hoofprint & Factors affecting cervical AI success.
All project areas are of interest to Sheep Ireland, but the one in which our organisation has most involvement with is on the Ewe Longevity element. The work carried out by SusSheP will hopefully lead to the inclusion of a ewe longevity trait in the Sheep Ireland maternal index (which is currently not included). Ewe longevity is obviously a critical maternal trait in sheep production from both a profitability and sustainability point of view. The reason that it is not currently included in the Sheep Ireland model (and most other sheep genetic evaluation systems worldwide) is due to the difficulty capturing accurate data on the trait.
Through SusSheP, Sheep Ireland has worked to develop better ways to allow breeders to capture the reasons why ewes leave their flock; dead reasons, sale reasons, culling reasons etc. The launch of new webscreens to allow performance recording flocks the option to record all possible flock exit reasons is step one in this process. A new Sheep Ireland app (available to all Irish sheep farmers), will soon include functionality to record these exit reasons which should lay the foundation for the inclusion of this new trait in the Sheep Ireland €uroStar evaluations.