AFBI’s latest research to improve performance on sheep farms

Date published: 04 August 2017

Area of Expertise:

Research scientists from AFBI recently attended the Sheep NI event organised by the National Sheep Association where they presented and discussed some of their latest research.

In particular, on farm studies, conducted in collaboration with veterinary practices and advisors and investigating novel approaches to health and production planning were highlighted.

This work has involved the implementation of a new management system developed by AFBI and subsequent results indicate that most flocks need to record more data especially on the number and causes of losses and culls.  As part of the project, interventions were identified for each of the 10 flocks involved with the aim of: reducing reproductive wastage, reducing growing lamb losses and improving gut worm and fluke control.  The data collected as part of this three year project will allow the AFBI research team to evaluate the impacts that a more targeted approach to health planning can have on animal performance, welfare and financial indicators.

The optimisation of grass production and utilisation on sheep farms was another key area of focus. The project ‘Lamb from Grass’, funded by DAERA with support from AgriSearch involves detailed grazing trials at AFBI Loughgall.  These trials are investigating the effects of different grazing strategies and sward types on grass growth, quality and utilisation, as well as ewe and lamb performance.  This work is complemented with an on farm element where 10 lowland and hill sheep farms across Northern Ireland are evaluating the benefits of regular grass measurements, the importance of grass quality and how different breed types respond to similar grazing strategies.

The event also offered the opportunity for AFBI staff to present and discuss an exciting development at AFBI Hillsborough:  the installation and use of an electronic feed, forage and water intake monitoring system.  This unique facility expands AFBI’s research capability in sheep nutrition and genetics and will be used to examine the impact of factors such as forage type and quality, supplement type and modified management practices on feed use efficiency, whilst also facilitating investigation of interactions between nutrition, genetics and the immune system.

Overall the event was a success and very well attended, with more than 1,300 visitors on the day. 

Share this page