A series of Beef and Sheep events entitled ‘Future proofing Beef and Sheep farming’, organised during 2019 by AFBI, CAFRE, AgriSearch and the LMC are currently underway.
Each event focuses on one of three key topics under the control of the producer, with clear take home messages in relation to Grazing for growth, Breeding for performance and Finishing Beef and Lamb.
With regard to breeding for performance Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) in particular can be used to evaluate an animal’s genetic merits for a range of production traits. Sam Boon from Signet breeding services demonstrated the financial benefits (increases in carcass value per lamb) that farmers can achieve after using EBVs to select terminal sires. Sam also provided an update on 8 new EBVs and 2 new breeding indexes that have been developed using data from the RamCompare Programme. These include EBVs for primal yields and shear force, indicative of meat tenderness.
Dr Aurélie Aubry from AFBI then presented some of the first results of the RamCompare NI project, which aims to improve our understanding and awareness of EBVs. The Northern Ireland RamCompare test flock has been testing more than 16 Suffolk and Texel sires over the past 2 breeding seasons. More than 660 ewes have been AI’d and their progeny is being monitored from birth to slaughter. The sires are recorded with either Sheep Ireland or Signet, and they have been selected from a range of muscle indexes. At the end Aurelie discussed the importance of recording novel traits such as feed conversion efficiency and their economic importance for sheep farms.
Dr Eileen McCloskey from CAFRE discussed how current information systems and technology can be used to facilitate data collection on farms. Eileen explained that using electronic identification systems is crucial to quantify the performance of the farm and identify areas to improve in order to be more efficient and profitable.
Jason Barley from AFBI’s Veterinary Sciences Division then delivered a talk on how farmers and vets can implement an effective flock health plan. Case studies were presented to highlight the potential benefits that can be achieved following the implementation of a fit for purpose health and production plan.
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