This week, Darren Carty outlines the latest scanning results for Tullamore Farm. Remember this flock of 250 sheep runs alongside the 80 cow suckler herd on a mixed grass clover sward.

It’s not a research farm, but it is a demonstration farm, and allows us highlight and display the real costs of a commercial farm, the problems, the positive results, but also challenge some unfounded theories.

Since the farm was established, the largely Mule sheep flock has delivered as expected over the years, with some ups and downs.

This year, Tullamore Farm has started developing an Easycare sheep flock in an effort to challenge the norm and measure performance after listening to farmer concerns.

The move is not a ratification of the breed. I’m sure some farmers will see it as a step backwards, and wouldn’t dream of such a move.

However, that is the industry benefit of a farm like this. If it’s not challenging strongly held beliefs, it is failing in its purpose as a farm to challenge the status quo.

Can costs be reduced? Will lamb performance match up when you cross a terminal sire with an Easycare ewe?

Whatever the outcome, everything will be measured and reported on. That’s the beauty of it – the good, the bad and the costs associated with same will all be displayed.

Genotyping the national herd – a world first

This year marks the start of a very important year in terms of genotyping the national herd.

The transparency it will bring for farmers buying calves in the mart ring will be second to none.

The DNA tells the genetic story, but after that management and herd health will decide if that package of genetics can deliver two years later when it calves for the first time or is finished for the factory.

The information will allow farmers to differentiate the genetic potential between calves that might look the same with black coats, but are very different in terms of potential weight gain or carcase conformation.

The challenge for the farmer right now who is investing time, hard work and euros into this venture needs to be managed carefully.

In an ideal world, calf DNA samples should leave the farm every day in the spring calving season in order to process the information in a timely fashion.

ICBF is saying the entire process from posting to result delivery could take 10 to 12 days.

For the 10,500 herds in the scheme this year, the DNA information will fill in the genetic blanks for over 750,000 calves.