The National Sheep database is continuously growing, with more records being collected and evaluated every year. There are now 120,000 pregnancy scans recorded on the database which are helping to identify the best genetics in the country.
An analysis carried out by Sheep Ireland on over 6,500 pregnancy scanning records from pedigree flocks participating in LambPlus over the past two months shows significant production advantages from using superior genetics. Ewes rated as five-star on the replacement index on a within breed basis achieved an average litter size of 1.69 lambs per ewe in-lamb, compared to 1.42 lambs for the one-star ewes.
The 0.27 lamb higher scanning rate has the potential to deliver increased returns from these ewes contained in pedigree flocks, but also has the potential to feed positively into commercial flocks.
Kevin McDermott, Sheep Ireland manager said: “Teagasc research clearly shows the number of lambs reared per ewe joined and stocking rate are the two metrics with the greatest potential to influence farm productivity. The higher prolificacy potential of five-star ewes in the latest analysis is significant.”
It should be noted that the litter sizes are from early lambing systems, so the potential for a mid-season lambing flock could be even greater.
“If we assume a mortality rate of 10% from scanning to weaning, the three-star ewes would wean just below 139%, while the five-star ewes should wean above 150%. Getting more of these five-star genetics incorporated into the national flock will help achieve the targets set in the recently released Teagasc roadmap.”
"It is also important to stress that we see these differences within a breed, meaning if a farmer wants to increase their pregnancy scan results, they can do that without necessarily having to change the breeds they use if that is what they would prefer to do".
A significant percentage of the data set comprises ewes from the breeds with the largest LambPlus participation, including Suffolk, Texel, Charollais, Belclare and Vendeen but also includes ewes across all breed types. Sheep ireland advises any LambPlus flocks that have not yet recorded their pregnancy scan to do so as soon as possible as this can to help maximise their data quality index (DQI) score.
There has been another increase in the number of flocks joining LambPlus for the 2021 season. A further 20 flocks took advantage of the extended deadline of 15 December for new flocks, bringing total participation to 850 flocks. This is an increase of 130 flocks on 2019 and is the highest ever level of participation in a breed improvement programme.