Sheep Research Programmes Highlighted
Byline: LYNNE DAWSON and ALISTAIR CARSON, Agricultural Research Institute, Hillsborough
RESULTS of a three-year research programme, investigating the potential to develop lower cost 'easy-care' lambing systems, will be among the research topics highlighted on three forthcoming farm walks.
The main objective of this research programme, being undertaken by the Agricultural Research Institute, Hillsborough, is to investigate the effect on labour input and lamb output of adopting an easy-care (grass-based) lambing system in comparison to indoor lambing systems.
This programme, funded jointly by AgriSearch and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, is being carried out on farms across Northern Ireland and will be featured at farm walks with Rober Moore, Londonderry (August 6), John McHenry, Mosside (August 7) and John and Billy Martin, Greyabbey (August 8). All farm walks start at 7.30pm.
With the sheep industry under sustained financial pressure, it is essential that we continue to examine options to reduce costs. One method of addressing this is to reduce the level of labour input as this represents the largest single input associated with sheep production.
On six farms across Northern Ireland, the relative merits of outdoor (easy-care) versus conventional indoor lambing systems have been examined in a three-year study.
At the farm walks, results from the study will be presented on:
l effect of grass-based lambing on lamb output and labour input;
l suitability of particular ewe and ram breeds to grass-based lambing systems; and,
l impact of using performance-recorded rams on lamb growth rates and carcass quality.
In the third year of the study, the effect of provision of additional shelter for those ewes lambing outdoors on lamb mortality and growth rates was determined. Polymesh shelters of differing designs were placed throughout the lambs and post-lambing fields and use by ewes and lambs was recorded at regular intervals. …