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CAFRE

Future performance the focus for Fermanagh sheep enterprise

September 22, 2020

Ruth Moore Beef and Sheep Adviser, CAFRE, Enniskillen.

County Fermanagh based sheep farmer Geoffrey Read gives careful consideration to how his flock will perform in the future when selecting replacement ewe lambs.
The current flock of 180 ewes and 100 ewe lambs are managed to reflect the time he can spend on the farm near Maguiresbridge. Bearing in mind family and work commitments he collects detailed records on flock performance to aid his management decisions and ensure labour and enterprise efficiency.

Geoffrey invested in a flock management programme several years ago that links to his weighbridge. All lamb weights are now captured and linked back to individual ewes and rams. Using a combination of hard data from actual flock performance and physical appearance ensures he chooses the correct replacements for his flock.

Selection Policy

Ewe lambs are drafted on two figures; daily liveweight gain from 0-8 weeks old and daily liveweight gain from 8-20 weeks old. Reflecting on lamb performance from 0-8 weeks, Geoffrey says,

“I like a ewe lamb from twins to be achieving at least 330g per day and 400g per day for singles. This will give a good indication of their performance from the ewe”. 

Lamb performance from 8 -20 weeks will reflect the performance at grass.  Geoffrey comments, “For this year the ewe lambs are ranked for average daily liveweight gain between 8-20 weeks old and I selected the top 50% performing twins and the top 25% performing singles. The cut-off point was 220g per day for twins and 255g per day for singles”.

Geoffrey also ensures that ewe lambs are at least 60% of mature ewe weight at tupping, at the correct body condition score and that lambs are physically correct to achieve a target scanning percentage of 1.2%.

In the future I may consider selling surplus ewe lambs. With data to back up their performance I have confidence in their potential.

Ram Selection

Geoffrey has purchased two Innovis performance recorded rams in recent years, an Aberfield and an Aberblack. Geoffrey says, “Flock performance is driven by genetics. The use of performance recorded rams from a forage based system will ensure I can maintain 1.8 lambs weaned per ewe whilst driving lamb performance from grass. These rams tend to be hardier and have fewer problems with fertility, legs and feet”

Lamb Performance 2020

All lambs are sold direct for slaughter and Geoffrey is pleased with the performance of his lambs on a forage only system. From the performance recorded data Geoffrey says, “Lambs have performed very well this year averaging a liveweight gain from birth of 340g per day for those slaughtered to the end of August.  Overall from the lambs slaughtered so far they averaged 20.8kg, 44% kill out and 135 days on farm.  Lamb growth has slowed now in September to 200g per day for ewe lambs and 230g for rams, but with plenty of grass available these will stay on farm until they reach slaughter weights.


Ruth Moore, Beef and Sheep Adviser CAFRE, Enniskillen reviewing the selection of replacement ewe lambs at Geoffrey Read’s farm Maguiresbridge, County Fermanagh.

As a Sheep BDG member Geoffrey has availed of a Farm Innovation Visit to study innovative approaches to breeding sheep for profitable systems. Future plans include improving genetics to increase the kg of lamb produced per ewe on forage and he continues to research and implement appropriate technologies to push efficiencies and drive profitability.

The Business Development Groups Scheme is part of the NI Rural Development Programme and is part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.