BETTER Farm Sheep Programme
The BETTER Farm Sheep Programme is led from Athenry by Michael Diskin and Frank Campion and has been developed in collaboration with the Sheep Specialists.
To establish focal points for the on-farm implementation, development and evaluation of technology that is relevant to the sheep sector.
The programmes implemented on the collaborating farms will be used to support the wider adoption of:
- Grassland management
- Production methods
in the context of an agreed plan that can enhance the sustainability of sheep enterprises.
The central concept is that the programme is built upon active collaboration between the farmer and Teagasc Research and Advisory staff in the application and development of appropriate technology. A very close linkage with discussion groups and other advisory initiatives is an integral part of the process and this will revolve around the farmer sharing experiences and performance results with visiting groups.
- The farmers involved volunteered to participate in the programme. They were selected because they are enthusiastic about progressive development of their sheep enterprise.They are open to change to achieve better financial returns and labour efficiency.
- In the first season the farmers engaged with Teagasc in a comprehensive review of their current system identifying opportunities for improvement. The results of the review are incorporated in a farm plan with key changes highlighted. The plan involves changes in flock management, feeding practices, breeding policy, marketing policy, grassland management and farm facilities.
- Participating farmers are implementing an individual animal performance recording programme for all sheep on the farm. based on electronic identification (EID) with help and guidance from Teagasc research staff. Individual data on ewe performance (litter size, mortality, weight at joining) and lamb performance (including lamb weights at birth, 7 and 14 weeks of age and at sale) collected on the flock will be available to Teagasc for research and advisory purposes in the overall context of the project.
- Each participant records on-farm grass supply and this information is kept under review by the B&T adviser. Records are also kept of all flock management events.
- Farm financial performance is being measured through participation in the National Farm Survey operated by Teagasc so that a consistent set of financial data is produced for each farm
- The farmer will share physical and relevant financial performance information with other farmers through Teagasc discussion groups and organised visits.