The last three seasons have delivered numerous lessons for sheep producers. Favourable grass growth in the latter half of the year improved ewe nutrition and condition before, during and after breeding, resulting in a higher crop of lambs the following spring.

This lift in performance should be borne in mind as farmers wean ewes in greater frequency. While the situation varies between farms and regions, some ewes will be still feeling the after effects of a difficult spring and rearing a higher lamb crop. Where this is the case, plans will need to be put in place immediately to ensure that ewes have adequate time to regain condition ahead of this year’s breeding season.

The situation is no different for rams with breeding preparations often an area that is overlooked until too late in the season. On pages 54 and 55, Michael Gottstein from Teagasc gives an excellent explanation of how a ram NCT should be carried out. The previous features on pages 52 and 53 by Sheep Ireland’s Eamon Wall and Kevin McDermott explain how using €uro-Star indexes is delivering for producers.

The last few lambing seasons have also raised the question of what the most suitable lambing date is for midseason lambing flocks with a grass shortage faced by many. While grass growth will differ from year to year, Frank Campion discusses, on page 46, what factors should be considered to match your lambing date with the farm’s normal grass supply curve.

While these measures will help drive performance, every farm also needs to decide on what the best direction is to take the farm forward. Ciaran Lynch, Teagasc, details factors to consider in developing the farm’s breeding policy on pages 48 and 49, while Kieran Mailey shows its benefits on page 56 with Donegal’s David McLaughin weaning 1.99 lambs. On page 57, Co Down farmer Crosby Cleland shows the importance of recording performance.

Read the full focus section on sheep breeding here