Over the course of January, Sheep Irelands field technician, David Coen, has been very busy carrying out flock visits for LambPlus Breeders. The visit affords the breeders one-to-one time with a fully trained Sheep Ireland technician, which gives them the opportunity to ask any questions or queries they might have. The flock visits also afford Sheep Ireland the opportunity to collect important phenotype records, such as Lameness, Mastitis, Body Condition Score and DAG Score.
In total so far this year, David has visited 31 different LambPlus Breeders, and was met with a very positive response overall. All breeders learned something that will help them when performance recording in the future. One of the big things that David focuses on during the visit is demonstrating to breeders how to use the Sheep Ireland App for collecting data. The App is a very efficient way of collecting data, with the added advantage that the data gets automatically uploaded to the database, eliminating the need for breeders to enter data they have collected at a later stage, cutting down on paperwork and transcribing errors.
Throughout the course of the visits some issues were popping up quite often, such as breeders having difficulty in understanding how to record lambing difficulty correctly and not understanding the importance of recording lamb mortality. The benefit of the visit for those breeders is that David was able to explain to them in detail the correct way of recording both traits. Accurately recording both lambing difficulty and lambing mortality allows Sheep Ireland to provide more informative and accurate genetics evaluations for animals, thus allowing commercial farmers to make a more informed decision when selecting their next stock ram.
The recording of pet lambs and foster lambs also appeared to be causing some breeders trouble when trying to record them. The reason it is important to record foster lambs, is to give a ewe the credit for rearing two lambs as opposed to the one lamb that she had. Recording a foster lamb will also serve to benefit the naturally born lamb of the foster ewe as that lamb is now being reared as a twin instead of a single.
Keeping the flock Inventory clean seemed to be an issue too for a minority of breeders. The development of new screens like the off-farm sales screen and the factory sales screen will assist breeders hugely in cleaning their flock inventories. The new screens give breeders the ability to move multiple animals from their flock at any one time, thus cutting down on the time it takes to record the data.
Another issue that David came across was some breeders not understanding the effect of not accurately recording Birth dates and Birth weights. Recording both pieces of data is critical as it then allows Sheep Ireland to accurately evaluate the lamb’s growth rates over the course of the year, leading to more accurate genetic evaluations being produced for commercial farmers.
Overall, we were very pleased with the response we got from breeders and to see the level of detail that breeders are going to when recording data in their lambing notebooks. The challenges going forward is to help breeders become more confident in using the App to record the data and also when entering data to the website!!