The Northern Ireland Sheep Programme was launched in May 2018 and is a collaboration between Dunbia, CAFRE and the Irish Farmers Journal. The aim of the 3-year programme is to increase the profitability of the 10 participating farmers through technology transfer and adoption of better management practices, based on scientific research. Participating farms reflect the diverse nature of the sheep sector, with variation in production systems, herd size and breeds and the type of land under management.
NORTHERN IRELAND SHEEP PROGRAMME
Financial Performance: Overarching goal is to strengthen the farmers’ financial position
Farm Sustainability: Determine suitable rewards for farmers to support environmental management practices
Flock Health: A health plan was developed for each farm to identify high-risk areas and to adopt the strategic use of vaccines and antibiotic usage
Soil Fertility: Optimising soil fertility improves sward productivity and increases grass growth rates. A fertiliser programme was establish for farmers, appropriate to the stocking rate on the farm.
Improve Grazing Performance: Demonstrate the benefits of maintaining vegetation in a productive state on lamb performance.
Breeding and Genetic Improvement: Farm profit margins are impacted by stocking rate and prolificacy, and each farms’ breeding programme is regularly reviewed and updated to establish optimum performance.
Marketing Preference: The target for flocks sending lambs through Dunbia is to have greater than 90% of lambs meeting the desired market specification. The emphasis is on maximising performance from grazed grass, but strategic use will be made of concentrates and forage crops. Electronic identification and performance recording from birth to slaughter will feed back data which can be used to improve breeding decisions.
Farm Safety: Each farm undergoes a safety assessment to identify any issues and efficiencies which could be adopted.
Farm walks, virtual meetings and webinars are held to demonstrate key findings, including a visit to the Royal Welsh Winter Fair and a tour of our production site at Llanybydder.
Outcomes will be shared after the programme ends in December 2022.