NSA annual regional meeting well attended

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NSA Northern Ireland Region hosted its 2018 Annual Regional Members Meeting in AFBI, Hillsborough recently.

The meeting was well attended, and most office holders remain unchanged, but John Blaney has stood down as NSA Northern Ireland Region Trustee, to be replaced by NSA Next Generation Ambassador Jonny Farmer, the first ambassador through this programme to have gained a place on The Trustee’s Board.

The meeting was followed by several speakers including AFBI’s Dr Aurelie Aubry and Dr Tim Keady from Teagasc and NSA Communications Officer Eleanor Phipps.

Eleanor comments: “The meeting had a good turn out, and the range of questions covered everything from best practice nutrition, to how we can better market lamb to encourage consumers to eat more. All in all, it was a very successful meeting. NSA would also like to thank John Blaney for his hard work during his time on the board and wish him the best going forwards, we also wish Jonny Farmer luck in this new role.”

Dr Aurelie Aubry gave an update on the present work being carried out on sheep research at AFBI. Dr Tim Keady was the guest speaker who, although no stranger to Hillsborough, travelled up from the west of Ireland for the evening. The title of Tim’s presentation was ‘Key Aspects of Profitability in the sheep sector’ and he went on to highlight these as ewe genotype, grassland management, silage feed value and thus nutrition during pregnancy, season of shearing, breeding ewe lambs and terminal sire. Tim told those present that ewe genotype (breed and parentage) was the main factor in influencing profitability on sheep farms. Thirty years ago, ewes reared 1.3 lambs per year and that has stood static over the years, but top sheep farmers selecting their ewes for good maternal traits and prolificacy are getting 1.7 and more lambs per ewe. 90% of ewes in Ireland have terminal sire genes which is the main factor on holding down the number of lambs reared per ewe! He said that trials by Teagasc showed that by improving ewe genotype an extra 0.34 lambs could be reared and this is worth more than £20 per ewe whereas an improvement in carcase grade will only return £2-£4 with a difference of growth rate being 2-3 weeks later.

The other big influence on profitability is grassland management where better rotational grazing can increase both stocking rates and lamb performance. He explained that well grown ewe lambs could be lambed in their first year if the farmer was prepared to feed them well and he would be rewarded for the extra care and attention. Silage quality in winter was critical for sheep as it would allow less concentrate feeding and reduce costs.

A Q & A session after the presentations resulted in good discussion and also included a consensus that we need to introduce lamb products to young people to help raise their awareness of the taste and benefits such as high Omega 3 rather than have it branded as a food for older people. The re-elected chairman Brian Jamieson from Ballycastle finished by thanking the speakers and all who had attended.