The Irish Grassland Association held the 2010 national sheep conference and farm walk on the farm of John Kelly, Stratford on Slayney, Co Wicklow with a conference afterwards at the Killerig Resort Hotel, Killerig, Co Carlow. The event was kindly sponsored by Mullinahone Co-op and Sheep Ireland Ltd.
Attending delegates in vast numbers had the opportunity in the morning to visit the sheep farm of John Kelly, a young, progressive sheep farmer, who plans to grow his flock by 50% over the next 2 years, from the current 330 adult ewes and 100 replacements to 500 adult ewes and replacements by 2012. He also plans to increase weaning rate to 1.6 lambs per adult ewe let to the ram. The farm is very focused on labour efficiency, with only 0.5 labour units devoted to the sheep enterprise, and to grassland management, with grass playing the major role in the diet of both the adult ewes and lambs on the farm. Alone in 2009, no concentrates were fed to any adult ewes of lambs before September last year, by which time 75% of lambs on the farm had been drafted. John is also a keen member of the Teagasc Better Farm sheep program.
The afternoon part of the event was equally impressive, with an outstanding line-up of speakers for the conference. These included;
Pat Donnellan and Thierry Pabiou, Sheep Ireland, who presented the latest genetic indexes from Sheep Ireland, based on data from both pedigree and commercial sheep flocks, including the new Central Progeny Test system.
Dr. Tim Keady, Teagasc, Athenry, who outlined the latest results from Teagasc sheep research, in which lambs were finished on a range of diets including grass, concentrates, typhon and chicory.
Dr Seamus Hanrahan, Teagasc, Athenry, who drew on his 35 years of experience in sheep research to present a compelling paper on opportunities for improvements in technical efficiency at farm level, and
Denis Carroll, Sheep farmer and Secretary of the Ring of Kerry Quality Lamb Group, presented their groups experience of direct selling lamb to the public, including the opportunities and the pit-falls. The group were recent category winners in the JFC Innovation awards, run by the Irish Farmers Journal and Teagasc.
Their story struck a chord with many sheep producers, as they seek to find new ways of increasing the value of our lamb crop.
To review the presentations given at the Sheep Conference – click here
Once again IGA were delighted to have Mullinahone Co-op as one of its sponsors for the event. Commenting on the event, Liam Egan, Mullinahone Co-op applauded the IGA for putting on such an excellent offering for farmers; “Once again we are delighted to be associated with the running of the conference, which is our sixth year of being involved. The IGA sheep conference is always forward looking and this year is no different. Likewise, Pat Donnellan, Sheep Ireland Ltd, paid tribute to quality of the conference and farm-walk; “The fact that the conference was so topical, with new messages in sheep breeding, finishing and marketing, made the event so interesting and educational to all pedigree and commercial sheep farmers.