Review of a very positive Sheep Ireland industry meeting

Review of a very positive Sheep Ireland industry meeting

On Monday (29th April), Sheep Ireland held their latest sheep industry meeting. A crowd of 80 stakeholders from across the industry were in attendance, and lots of great discussion from the floor. The session was chaired by Donagh Berry (Teagasc).

Sean Coughlan, CEO of Sheep Ireland opened the meeting, reinforcing some of the key messages for the industry, that we need to keep improving the indexs for the benefit of commercial farmers, we need to attract young people to the industry by being cutting edge, and that there are lots of opportunities appearing on the horizon for the sheep industry.

There were 8 presentations on the day, each with a very positive message to tell, and a summary of each can be found below.

  1. OviGen (Aine O’Brien, Teagasc) – The OviGen genomics research project will soon finish its 5-year term. It has delivered DNA parentage verification for ram breeders through Sheep Ireland, a new health index (using dag and lameness information), and work which will lead to more accurate breed composition assignment. View Aine’s full presentation here and a summary of her presentation here.
  2. DNA parentage & scrapie (Noirin McHugh, Teagasc) – The negative financial impact that incorrect parentage can have on our sheep breed improvement programme is huge. Being able to correct this parentage through genotyping is a major advancement for the Irish sheep industry. Scrapie genotypes can now be predicted by the genotyping technology available to Irish ram breeders through Sheep Ireland. Getting these scrapie genotype results recognised by the Department of Agriculture for export purposes will be the next aim. To view Noirin’s presentation click here and a summary of her presentation here.
  3. New genotyping service for Irish sheep farmers (Ciara Long, Sheep Ireland) – A new process for rapid turnaround of sheep genotypes has been developed by Sheep Ireland. Farmers/breeders can avail of this service through state of the art web screens via the Sheep Ireland website. The cost of genotyping will continue to be subsidised for LambPlus (performance recording) flocks by Sheep Ireland to €10 (€24.50 for non-LambPlus flocks). The continued subsidisation of this genotyping will be reassessed regularly pending uptake. View Ciara’s presentation here  and a summary of her presentation here.
  4. New exciting research (Fiona McGovern, Teagasc) – New Zealand genetics from the INZAC flock in Teagasc Athenry are now being trialed on commercial sheep farms. Another project looking at feed intake and methane emissions in sheep was also presented by Fiona. Greenbred will use the latest technology to capture this hard measure data, hopefully laying the foundations for future work in this area and perhaps the development of a genetic indexes for feed intake and methane for Irish sheep farmers in the future.View Fiona’s presentation here and a summery of her presentation here.
  5. OviData (Eamon Wall, Sheep Ireland) – This new project aims to apply genotyping technologies to commercial sheep farms in order to assign parentage to lambs, thus making all data recorded on these farms available for inclusion in the Sheep Ireland genetic evaluations. View Eamon’s full presentation here and a summary of his presentation here.
  6. Flock visits (David Coen, Sheep Ireland) – Sheep Ireland are now visiting all flocks involved in performance recording. These visits will center around data collection and the education of performance recording breeders on all aspects of the scheme. These visits will also add to the credibility of the Sheep Ireland genetic improvement programme. View David’s presentation here.
  7. Genetic Evaluation Updates (Thierry Pabiou, Sheep Ireland) – The Sheep Ireland indexes are receiving a number of major improvements for the 2019 season. These are as follows – inclusion of lamb carcase data for the first time, a move from within-breed evaluations to across-breed for the first time, and updating the heritability’s used in the evaluation based on Irish data. All of these improvements will lead to more accurate genetic evaluations and a faster rate of genetic progress for the Irish sheep industry.  View Thierry’s presentation here and a summary of his presentation here.
  8. Impact of Programme Improvements (Kevin McDermott, Sheep Ireland) – The new improvements will cause some movements in the indexes of rams. For breeders affected by this, it is unfortunate, but the benefit to the wider sheep industry will be significant. View Kevin’s presentation here and a summary of his presentation here.

These new evaluations are now available to the public on

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