The sheep flock at Tullamore Farm is only midway through its second production cycle but there are already lots of lessons coming from the flock. The open day will allow all aspects of physical and financial performance to be examined closely for the 2018 and 2019 production cycles.
Performance of the Mule ewe (progeny of Scottish Blackface ewe and Blue-faced Leicester ram), which was selected with the target of satisfying a number of goals including achieving high output and supporting the hill sheep sector, will be assessed. The breed is delivering on its output objectives with mature ewes and two-tooth hoggets scanning an average of 2.16 lambs per ewe joined for the 2017/2018 season and 2.23 lambs per ewe joined for the 2018/2019 season.
Scanning is only one part of the picture though and management of the flock with a particular focus on dealing with a high litter size will be discussed. Diseases such as listeriosis, enzootic abortion and grass tetany have hit output and the effect of these will be discussed on the sheep and animal health stands. Lamb mortality averaged 14% in 2018 and is running at 12.8% so far in 2019. The high-risk areas will be profiled. Ewe mortality, which has proven particularly challenging, will also be discussed.
There are also plans to grow the sheep flock to in the region of 250 ewes lambing down in 2020. The Mule ewe will remain the dominant breed but consideration is also being given to retaining a small number of Texel x Mule replacements. The breeding policy will be debated on the day, along with plans to improve the volume of information recorded.
Lamb slaughter performance
The farm has been happy with how lambs have performed in 2018 and to-date in 2019. Table 1 details the slaughter performance for 281 Charollais x Mule lambs drafted for slaughter in 2018, while the drafting pattern will be discussed in more detail on the day. Along with this, there were 35 lambs sold as pet lambs with surplus lambs reared artificially on the farm in 2019.
The breeding policy changed in 2018 with Texel rams mated with mature ewes while Charollais rams were joined with hoggets and ewe lambs. There has been two drafts of lambs so far in 2019 and the slaughter performance of both groups are also listed in Table 1.
Lambs are marketed through the Offaly Lamb Producer Group which is working well. Manager Shaun Diver has excelled in lamb selection with the majority of lambs meeting desired specification. The greatest challenge is balancing drafting weight and fat cover in ewe lambs with significant price deductions for overfat lambs.
The finishing plan for the remainder of the year will be discussed, with grass supplies becoming much tighter as soil moisture levels continue to dip. Meal feeding was used to good effect in 2018 and a similar programme may need to be revisited in 2019.
Chance to see sheep equipment working
For anyone considering purchasing sheep handling equipment or looking to improve their level of flock recording, then the animal handling demonstrations are not to be missed. The demonstrations will give farmers a unique opportunity to see a range of handling equipment in action and assess what type of system may best suit their needs. Systems on display will cater for both small flock owners and large enterprises.
Five sheep handling companies have confirmed attendance including Clipex Fencing and Stockyards, Cormac Sheep Equipment/Tuam Farm Supplies, O’Donovan Engineering, Shepherdsmate and Stanley Engineering Services. Regular demonstrations will take place throughout the day commencing at approximately 1.30pm after the first farm walk and sheep dipping demonstration. The display from each of these companies will be discussed in more detail in the coming days on www.farmersjournal.ie.
The introduction of electronic tagging has met stern opposition, with the switch from conventional to electronic tags significantly increasing costs. However, there may be an opportunity for some farmers to get more payback from the cost and implement better recording. In addition to handling equipment, these companies will also showcase recording equipment and software. Tagging companies including Cormac Tagging and Mullinahone Co-op will also be in attendance to discuss options and talk through tag selection and optimum application of existing and new tags on the market.