Current levels of optimism in the sheep sector are generally positive.

Markets have performed relatively well despite the coronavirus pandemic and this is inserting more energy into the sector.

A positive outlook helps to energise and build momentum for a busy lambing period.

Many producers will look at the concept that every additional lamb saved has the scope to add significantly to the farm’s bottom’s line.

This week, Bord Bia livestock sector manager Seamus McMenamin outlines a positive outlook for 2021.

One significant challenge is increasing the volume of lamb produced under the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme.

This challenge is not new and serious dialogue and commitment is required at industry level to drive progress in this area.


A blueprint on how to increase participation is available from the beef sector, with many producers citing an increased and guaranteed financial reward as an incentive needed to grow participation.

The sheep sector is positioned relatively well in terms of being able to convey an assured message on antibiotic usage and environmental management.

However, there are areas where improvements can be made and we address concerns over high levels of antibiotics in treating and preventing watery mouth disease.

Scanning operators report average scanning rates faring well in lowland, upland and hill enterprises, with a side comment being that ewes are typically in good condition.

The aim should be to safeguard this body condition reserve for utilising in the final stages of gestation or ideally in early lactation. This is particularly applicable to outwintered flocks given recent weather has been tough to contend with.


Mortality can be minimised by ensuring ewes lamb in adequate condition, give birth to lambs of an appropriate birth weight and have sufficient colostrum to give lambs the best possible start.

There is lots of talk of an increase in the cost of soya bean meal but as we detail this week, it is the complete protein source in late gestation and should be a prioritised.