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Sheep Ireland Highfield House, Shinagh, Bandon, Co Cork. T: 1850 901 601 E:

LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

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LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

Message from the Chairman At a recent International Sheep Meat Forum and Advisory Meeting in Brussels, positive messages were emanating about the market outlook and price prospects for lamb, the opening up of new market opportunities and a push for targeted EU direct support. While producers are currently disappointed that lamb prices have not kicked on in line with UK prices, average lamb price for 2013 to-date of €4.86/kg is just ahead of 2012 levels. Securing the Libyan market for lamb for the first time in 2013 added €6 to €8 per head in the peak selling months of June, July, and August.

James Murphy, Chairman Sheep Ireland

The retention of the sheep grassland payment in Budget 2014 provides a strong platform for a much stronger targeted sheep payment from the implementation of the CAP in 2015. Government funding for CAP Pillar 2 will be essential to support Disadvantage Areas and Environmental payments, all very important to sheep farm incomes. Against this background sheep farmers have reason to be positive, particularly in relation to investment in their flocks and breeding decisions. However breeders must be responsible and cannot rely on science and figures alone when selecting rams for next year as this is only a tool to help select the top genetics. 2013 was a very successful year for LambPlus with a huge increase in the awareness of the €uroStar evaluations and in the number of LambPlus recording breeders with STAP having a significant part to play in this. STAP will continue to increase both demand and awareness for LambPlus rams and the benefits of using the €uro-Stars when purchasing a ram. This year saw the introduction of the Sheep Ireland on-line Ram Search on May 16th. This was a huge step forward for Sheep Ireland and the Irish sheep industry, making access to €uro-Stars of LambPlus recorded rams much more accessible to both pedigree and commercial farmers. To continue to grow the LambPlus service, nothing is more important than receiving more accurate information. This is why for the forthcoming season we will be introducing minimum requirements and a data quality index that will rate each breeder on the quantity of data recorded as well as the timeliness of its submission to Sheep Ireland. Finally, we wish to thank all the LambPlus breeders for participating in the scheme and hope you continue to record using the LambPlus service in order to forge ahead with the genetic potential of your flock and the national flock.


Board Structure of Sheep Ireland Position

E-mail address



James Murphy (IFA)

086 859 0430

Company Secretary

John Carty (DAFM)

057 86 94404

Industry Bodies



Kevin Kinsella

086 245 4404


James Brosnan

086 390 0253


Dermot Ryan 01 60 72641

Meat Industry Ireland

Cormac Healy

Flock books

Liam Coen

087 287 2674


Anne Murphy

086 844 1144


Micheal O’Neill

087 769 6147

087 930 7974

Lamb Producer Groups Sean Fair

Our Mission Statement

To achieve the greatest possible improvement, from genetic and other factors, in the profitability of the national sheep flock for the benefit of Irish farmers and the sheep industry

Contact Information General inquires

Tel: 1850 601 901 • Fax: 023 882 0229 E-mail: • Web:




Contact Number

Eamon Wall

Development Lead

023 882 0454 086 023 7658

Kevin McDermott

LambPlus Lead

023 882 0216 086 792 5679

Michael McHugh

Sheep Specialist 087 244 8481

Stephen Potterton CPT & Malp Lead

045 520 796 087 782 0111

Shane Randles

023 882 0154

LambPlus support

LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

Sheep Irelands background Sheep Ireland was established in 2009 as a result of the Malone report. It was recognised that Ireland needed a new sustainable breed improvement programme that would identify the best genetics to improve growth rates, lambing performance and health. One of main drivers proven to affect farm profit is the number of lambs weaned per ewe per year, of which Ireland’s average (1.3 lambs per ewe) has not increased in the last 30 years or so. It could also be seen that the dairy and beef sectors in this country were making considerable gains from their genetic improvement programme with ICBF and that there was no reason the sheep sector should not strive to produce the same proportional gains. • Progeny sired by a five star beef bull vs a one star beef bull will on

average be €250 more profitable

• Every year the dairy industry are breeding bulls that are on average

€10 more profitable than the year before over the last 5 years

Sheep Ireland’s main aims • Increase the profitability of Irish sheep farms • Identify and promote the very best genetics in Ireland • Make top genetics available to sheep farmers through the €uro-Star index • DAFM is proving financial support to Sheep Ireland in the form of an

annual operating grant and through capital support from the NDP • Commercial farmers and LambPlus breeders are also financially

contributing to the Sheep Ireland scheme through the slaughter levy and the LambPlus sign up fee


LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

€uro-Stars at a glance This year you will see a significant change in the way the €uro-Stars are presented, moving away from three main indexes towards two new indexes’, Terminal and Replacement.

• Terminal – Selecting on this trait will improve lambs days to slaughter, carcass quality and lambing performance

• Replacement – Selecting on this trait will improve all the items mentioned above as well as ewe efficiency, fertility and daughter milk yield The Current €uro-Star indexes % Rank Top 20% Top 10% Top 60% Top 40%

• • •

Star Rating

★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★ ★★★★★


Overall Sheep Value Lambing

Production Maternal

The New updated €uro-Star indexes € Value Acc% €0.305








Three main Indexes Confusion surrounding how best to select replacement ewe lambs Potential to place less emphasis on lambing traits

% Rank Top 40% Top 10%

• • •

Star Rating

★★★★ ★★★★★


€ Value Acc%







Two main indexes Easier to interpret Lambing is incorporated into both indexes reducing the potential for its decline

What do the €uro-Stars represent? Euro-Star Categories ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★ ★

5 Stars: 4 Stars: 3 Stars: 2 Stars: 1 Star:

Top 20% Top 60 – 80% 40 – 60% Bottom 20 – 40% Bottom 20%

Important notes: • All €uro-Star evaluations are currently within breed • To make genetic progress you need to select for four or five €uro-Stars for either of the main indexes


LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

Accuracy % A critical element of the €uro-stars The accuracy (Acc %) attached to every €uro-Star evaluation is extremely important as it is a measure of the amount of information behind the evaluation. The more information supporting the evaluation of an individual animal the better – and this will be reflected in higher accuracies. High accuracy = High confidence in the figures!!! Below illustrates how farmers should evaluate the level of accuracy in the new Sheep Ireland evaluations.

Terminal Index

Replacement Index

Accuracy Level

Ram Lambs

Older Rams





25% to 40%

30% to 55%








15% to 30%

15% to 35%




Factors that increase accuracies (Acc %) • • • • • • • • •

The volume of back pedigree/breeding available to Sheep Ireland The number of LambPlus recording breeders in any particular breed Genetic linkage – having some common bloodlines with other recording flocks Sharing stock rams in the same year with other LambPlus breeders Exchanging ewes with other recording flocks during mating The volume of data collected on each individual farm Using two or more recorded rams each year Using rams with high acc % increase your lambs acc% Successfully submitting a ram into Sheep Irelands CPT or Malp programme

Why use the €uro-Star evaluations Most breeders have had bad experiences when it comes to breeding rams. There can be huge variation in the performance and output of different rams, even rams that look identical in every way. The €uro-Star evaluations provide a very useful additional tool to both breeders and sheep farmers when purchasing a breeding ram to help them to identify rams that will contribute in a positive way to profitability from their sheep enterprise.


LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

What’s the difference?

How to select Rams with €uro-stars STEP 1 The physical examination of a breeding ram is of critical importance. There are a number checks that should be carried out on a ram before making a purchase. These include: • • • • • •

Which of these rams will be profitable?

Teeth – front teeth (incisors) & back teeth (molars) Condition Score – Ideally 3.5 to 4 at beginning of mating Brisket/Chest – ensuring it is free from sores Feet & legs – lameness, joints, infections Penis & Prepuce – free from injury or infection Testicles & Scrotum – free from infection, good size, free of lumps or sores.

The €uro-Star evaluations will never compensate for physical problems in a breeding ram, so ALWAYS carry out a thorough physical examination in advance of considering the €uro-Star evaluations.

STEP 2 Once the physical checks have been completed and a number of potential purchases have been identified, farmers should then use the €uro-Star indexes as a tool to identify their ideal choice(s).

An ounce of breeding is better than a tonne of feeding! The graph below illustrates that on average there is a 4kg difference in weaning weights of lambs born to 5 Star rams versus 1 Star rams with over 60% accuracy on the old production index and this is solely due to better genetics.

Benefits of the index

5 Star vs 1 Star * Progeny liveweight performance

Teagasc BETTER Farm trials in 2013 have shown a weaning weight difference of 1.5 kg of lambs born to 5 Star vs 1 Star Production rams with lower accuracy.

5 star rams



Farmers should remember that genetic gain is permanent; it will be retained by the sheep within your flock and can be built on further going forward. Unfortunately bad genetics will work in the very same way. The €uro-Star indexes can help farmers avoid these bad genetics.


4.0 Kg difference at weaning

30 25 20

Days to slaughter reduced by 9 days

15 10 5 0

1 star rams 0

10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

* When acc % is 60% or greater on the production index


Age (days)

LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

Concentrate feeding is a major cost on most sheep farms. Although expensive the effect of concentrates on animal performance can be very good, however as soon as concentrate supplementation ceases, so too does the boost in animal performance. Better genetics will always deliver better performance, and the great thing about genetics is that they can be improved, year on year.

Where to find €uro-Star Rams? There are a wide range of options available to breeders and farmers when looking for €uro-Star rated rams. The main ones are: •

• • • •

If you wish to purchase rams direct from a breeder’s farm, the details of breeders in your area are available on Sheep Ireland’s website, via the On-line Ram Search facility. Just go to and select advanced search. There is also a Help option available in the advanced search that explains how to construct a correct ram id as well as explaining each individual search field. HELP ? The on-line ram search facility will also provide details in relation to the €uro-Star evaluations of individual rams as well as the ancestry of the ram All the main breed societies hold a host of sales around the country each autumn and within these sales you will find €uro-Star recorded rams. Sheep Ireland has held a high €uro-Star sale each year in mid-August Go to for a full list of Performance recording breeders and a list of all the society contacts for breeds that are currently participating in performance recording.

There were over 10,000 LambPlus recorded ram lambs with €uro-Star evaluations in 2013 The Online Ram Search had over 25,000 hits in the first 6 months since its launch


LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

Additional benefits of joining the LambPlus service Inbreeding checker

Greater than 6% (High Risk)

Between 3% and 6% (Medium Risk)

Sheep Ireland have introduced a colour coded report for each Less than 3% (Low Risk) flock which works on a traffic light system (see diagram). Green boxes represent low risk of inbreeding affects (below 3%), Orange represents medium risk of inbreeding affects (between 3 % and 6 %), and Red represents high risk of inbreeding affects (greater than 6 %). The aim should be to control inbreeding by carefully selecting rams for ewes that are not related as inbreeding can effect flock health, fertility and performance. This works best for breeds with flockbooks on the system.

Reports Sheep Ireland will be capable of producing reports to summarise your flocks performance in relation to number of lambs weaned to ewes mated, lambs average daily gains (ADG) etc.

Flock books Sheep Ireland currently provide a database for the Texel, Belclare and Galway sheep society’s on which they can manage their own flock books, therefore by complying with LambPlus requirements breeders in these society’s also fulfil their pedigree requirements for birth notifying lambs.

Sales Each year there are a number of sales around the country run by various groups that are restricted solely to LambPlus recorded flocks, these sales are growing in popularity each year and can be an additional outlet for ram sales

Department Incentives Last year seen the introduction of the Sheep Technology Adoption Programme (STAP) scheme by the Department of Agriculture which was a great success in spreading Sheep Irelands message. This greatly increased: • The demand for top LambPlus recorded rams • The number of LambPlus recording flocks • The awareness of the €uro-Star evaluations • He benefits of using top genetic potential rams There is the possibility of other incentives in the future and existing performance recording flocks/breeds will be in the best position to take advantage of this.

LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

LambPlus RecordingWhat is involved?

LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

LambPlus recording – What is required? The main areas that need to be recorded currently are: 1. Mating 2. Lambing 3. Weights a. Lambs b. Mature ewes 4. Ultrasound scanning (muscle and fat depth - optional) 5. Carcass information (optional)

1. Mating Accurate mating records are the foundation of the LambPlus programme. Whether ewes are Artifically Inseminated (AI) or Single Sire Mated (SSM), these details must be recorded accurately for all performance recorded lambs. Some DNA parentage verification will be carried by Sheep Ireland in the future

2. Lambing Sheep Ireland provide pocket sized lambing notebooks to LambPlus breeders each year which is very useful for helping breeders to record the relevant lambing information. The criteria to record at lambing time includes Dam id

• Breeders must ensure that all ewe identities are recorded accurately. The NSIS (Department Tag Number) is required in ALL cases in association with the ewes society Pedigree Identity.

Lamb id

• See page 14 on how to construct a pedigree id/tattoo • A full NSIS (Department Tag Number) is required before any performance recorded lamb will be provided with €uro-Star evaluations • Lambs that die at birth do not require any NSIS (Department Tag Numbers). Their Identity can simply be recorded as 'unknown' on the Sheep Ireland system

Date of Birth

• It’s critical that dates of birth are recorded accurately in order to produce the most accurate evaluations possible


• Lambs that die at birth do not require any NSIS (Department Tag Numbers). Their Identity can simply be recorded as 'unknown' on the Sheep Ireland system

Lamb status

• Every lamb will need a lambing status in order to be entered onto the Sheep Ireland system • This is also the point where abortions, culled lambs and lambs that are sold directly of the ewe as pets would be recorded. • Breeders can also record confirmed incidences of Schmallenberg at lambing time

(i.e. Dead, Alive)


LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

Lambing difficulty • Recording lambing difficulty is critical to the progression of our maternal genetic gain within each breed. • Difficulty is scored from 1-4. • Scores of 1 (Unassisted) & 2 (Voluntary assistance) are treated similarly within our evaluation. We cannot say definitively that each ewe voluntary assisted at lambing would have had any difficulty. • Lambing difficulty scores of 3 (Slight assistance) and 4 (Significant assistance) must be recorded accurately and honestly. Birth weight

• • • •

All weights are recorded in kg’s All lambs should be weighed to within the nearest half kilogramme. It is important to record the weight of dead lambs Lambs should be weighed within 24 hours of birth, ideally after the lamb is dried

Lamb rearing status • It is very important to record lambing codes accurately as the system takes each of these into account when generating the evaluations. Lambs that are bottle fed or fostered need to be recorded on the system as well as the foster ewe id Lamb Rearing code Description FO Fostered BR Bottle reared ET ET progeny SC Schmallenberg Group

• This refers to the management of the ewes and lambs at each stage of the production cycle. Examples of when different management groups should be used are : – ewes are on different diets pre lambing – ewes and lambs on different diets post lambing

Embryo Transfer

• All embryo transfers (ET’s) must be recorded as such • ET lambs must be linked back to its genetic mother • We recognise that embryo transfers can play a huge role in quickly taking advantage of top genetics within a flock as it can greatly increase the lifetime output of a particular breeding ewe unfortunatelythe performance records from these lambs up to the point of Ultrasound Scanning cannot be used in our genetic evaluations. • The performance of ET lambs is not determined by the lambs genetic dam, but by an 'unknown' surrogate dam. For this reason these records must be ignored.

3. Weights Lambs

There are three key times that lamb weights are to be recorded. Again, it is very important to record groups if some lambs are being managed under different conditions to others in the flock. There is also no restriction on the number of weights entered for each lamb.


LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

• Forty day weight – It is obviously not feasible or practical to weigh all lambs when they are exactly forty days of age, instead it is recommended to weigh lambs in batches as they enter the weighing threshold of between 30 and 60 days of age. • Weaning weight – This weight is to be recorded when the majority of lambs are between 60 and 120 days of age • Scanning weight - This weight is to be recorded when the majority of lambs are between 140 and 180 days of age. If a breeder decides to ultrasonically scan their lambs this weight will be collected on the day of scanning. We also acknowledge that some lambs may be sold for slaughter before this weight can be recorded, and we would recommend that these lambs would be weighed as they leave the farm. This weight should be recorded on the Sheep Ireland database. Mature weights

Mature weights are important to collect in order to estimate the cull value of the animal as well as how much fed it takes to maintain it. It is recommended that these weights are collected between weaning and mating. A body condition score (BCS) can also be collected (optional). This is collected on a scale of zero to five. Advice and direction on how best to collect mature weights and BCS will be circulated to all breeders in 2014. This element of recording is not compulsory, however in order to enter the LambPlus sale lambs must be scanned.

4. Ultrasound scanning for muscle and fat depth Currently Sheep Ireland is only receiving a small amount of carcass information due to the fact that most lambs recorded through LambPlus are used for breeding and so they don’t get slaughtered as lambs, and the process of receiving carcass data from abattoirs is still in the early stages. In order to overcome this scanning has become a vital part of the recording programme in predicting carcass confirmation, carcass fat and kill out percentage. This element of recording is not compulsory, however in order to enter the LambPlus sale, lambs must be scanned. Breeders that wish to scan need to contact Sheep Ireland before April 30th of each year.

Requirements for scanning include: • All lambs must have an assigned NSIS (Department Tag Number) • Lambs must be entered on the Sheep Ireland system by the end of April or they will not be scanned


LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

5. Carcass information Sheep Ireland are currently working closely with some of the larger sheep abattoirs in Ireland to try and establish a simple and easy system for transferring carcass information for Sheep Ireland performance recorded animals directly to the Sheep Ireland database. Unfortunately, this is going to be a difficult process to put in place due to the number of abattoirs in the country, trying to solve the ID issue and developing a system for the reliable transfer the data. As carcass information would be so valuable to increasing the accuracy of the €uro-Star evaluations Sheep Ireland will accept carcass information that can be reliably linked to the animal ID on the Sheep Ireland database. This can be done by sending Sheep Ireland a photocopy or scan of the abattoir kill out document; we will then input all the reliable and traceable carcass information in to the database.

How do I join LambPlus? STEP 1 Complete a sign-up form that can be obtained either through the Sheep Ireland web-site or by directly contacting Sheep Ireland. There is an annual fee of €50 or €100 each year regardless of flock size depending on how you decide to record your flock’s information. • •

Recording information online through the Sheep Ireland website using your personal login details - €50 Recording information on paper through the Sheep Ireland forms and posting them to Sheep Ireland - €100

STEP 2 Sheep Ireland would need to receive a list of all the ewes in your flock, including their • Pedigree id/tattoo see page 14 on how construct a pedigree society identity • Date of Birth • Sire

• NSIS (Department Tag Number) see page 14 on how to read an NSIS • Breed • Dam

Texel, Belclare and Galway breeders only These three pedigree breed societies’ use the Sheep Ireland data base to maintain their own flock books, and as a result of this we will already have a list of all the ewes and rams already in the flock, including all the recorded past pedigree so these breeds can skip to Step 3.


LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

STEP 3 You will receive your username and password which you can use to log in to your Sheep Ireland account ( It is very important to go through the flock and confirm that all the information is present and correct and to remove any animals that are no longer on the holding.

Reading NSIS (Dept.) tag numbers The Sheep Ireland database can only accept full and correct NSIS tag numbers. A full NSIS tag will contain 15 characters (see table below for breakdown). Number of characters

NSIS – Broken down Every Irish tag that have been issued since 2010 now begin with IE04


This is your unique flock designator (Also found on your movement/dispatch dockets)


These 5 digits are unique to that animal on your farm


The last character is the check letter and this is used to validate the tag number as being correct and is extremly important to record




How to construct Pedigree ids’ for the Sheep Ireland system The first part of the pedigree id is the flock prefix/code, this code is usually between 2 and 4 characters long and it can contain both numbers and letters. The year is the second part of the pedigree id and this is the last two digits of the year of birth, and finally the last part of the pedigree id must be between 3 and 5 digits. Flock prefix + Year of birth (2 digits) + individual animal number (3-5 digits) See below an example of a lamb born in 2014 with a flock prefix of ABC. This was the 23rd lamb born alive in this flock in 2014

ABC + 14 + 023 = ABC14023


LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

Changes for 2014 at a glance • • • • • • • • • • • •

New indexes’ New inbreeding checker New minimum requirements before evaluations are given Lamb must have an NSIS tag Lamb must have 3 weights Acc% must be above 10% in order to display €uro-Stars New closing date for LambPlus application (Dec 15th) New closing date for submitting lambing information to Sheep Ireland(April 30th) New closing date to notifying Sheep Ireland about intentions to scan (April 30th) New on farm visits throughout the year Ram search to be modified to display the new index €uro-Stars An event recorded beside every ewe, eg., lambing, abortion, barron.

Timeline of events Recording event


• Making Sheep Ireland aware that you wish to record This must be completed for the year ahead by December 15th • Pay the yearly subscription or supply Sheep Ireland with DD information • Update the flock inventory (Deaths/ Sales/ Purchases) • Insert lambing information • Notify Sheep Ireland if you wish to get lambs ultrasonically scanned for muscle and fat depth

This must be completed by April 30th

• • • •

The new breeder Data Quality Index will reward breeders that enter complete weights on to the Sheep Ireland system in a timely fashion.

Insert 40 day weights Insert weaning weights Insert scanning weights Insert mature weights

LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

Minimum requirements for €uro-Star evaluations 2014!!! If any of the following fields are not inputted on the Sheep Ireland system for a lamb, the lamb in question will not receive a €uro-Star evaluation. These minimum requirements have been set out by the Sheep Ireland board committee. • • • • • • •


Have a sire and dam recorded Lambing difficulty score Birth weight 40 day weight Weaning weight NSIS (Dept.) tag by April 30th Animals must have at least 10% acc for the index

Sheep Ireland Highfield House, Shinagh, Bandon, Co Cork. T: 1850 901 601 E:

LambPlus Guide 2013/2014

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Lambplus Guide 2014  
Lambplus Guide 2014  

A Simple and brief explanation about the LambPlus breed improvement programme as well as the benefits associated with the scheme