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List of participants:

  • Tim Keady (Researcher)
  • Alan Bohan (Researcher)
  • Daniel Hession (Researcher)
  • Damien Costello (Agricultural advisor)
  • John Brooks (Farmer/ sheep breeder)
  • John Renehan  (Farmer/ sheep breeder)
  • Seamus Fagan (Veterinarian)
  • Michael Crosse (Farmer (dairy sheep)
  • Simon Byrne (Farmer/ sheep breeder)
  • Ciara Long (Sheep Ireland)
  • Darren Carty (Sheep specialist, Irish farmers journal)
  • Ken Matthews  (Farmer/ sheep breeder)
  • John Curley (Farmer/ sheep breeder)
  • John Lynskey (Farmer/ sheep breeder)


Meeting welcome

Tim welcomed everyone to the third national workshop and read out apologies from John O’Rourke, James Dunne, Brendan Joyce and Anthony Mc Shane who could not attend on the day. Tim gave a recap on SheepNet, the aims of the programme and progress to date. A summary of all previous national and transnational workshops was given. Tim spoke about the “top-down, bottom-up” approach of SheepNet and where our members on the national committee fit into that approach. An outline of the agenda for the meeting was presented.







Feedback from Spanish TNWS


Alan gave a presentation on the TNWS in Vitoria and Spanish sheep production, discussing some of the key points such as the different production systems, breeds used and the variation in environment between systems. A presentation was also given on the farms visited and this was added to from the floor by those who had attended the TNWS in Vitoria. Alan discussed the different systems on the farms which varied from indoor meat production to outdoor milk production and cheese processing. There was much discussion on the use of 3 lambings in 2 years and its effects on fertility as well as discussion around the indoor milk lamb production with carcass weights of 6 to 8 kg.  There was much discussion among the group focusing on the forages used and the infrastructure on Spanish farms and this discussion was led by the farmers who attended the TNWS in Vitoria


Knowledge transfer and communication

Tim talked about knowledge transfer and communication channels and discussed the findings of the SheepNet communication survey. He showed that stakeholders used 5 main channels of communication and concluded that you need to use at least three different methods of communication to get a message across. At this point he explained the work shop activity that the committee would partake in explaining the purpose and the aims of the activity which were to highlight what channels of communication are being used, which are best and what other options do stakeholders want.


Knowledge transfer and communication workshop

  • The committee members were split into two groups, one discussing ewe nutrition and the other discussing BCS.
  • A rapporteur was appointed for each group to compile the findings and to share them with the room.
  • Each member had to answer five questions and then they discussed answers within the group.
  • The five questions asked were:
    1. Where do they source information
    2. What channels of communication were used
    3. What channels worked well and why
    4. What other possibilities are there and how could the current channels be improved
    5. What channels are not available or need to be created
  • Each group presented their answers to the room and allowed the other group to comment and/or add to their findings.




Group 1: Body condition score.

Where do you get information (who, what channel)

  1. Teagasc
  2. Discussion group
  3. Seminars/conferences
  4. Research reports
  5. Formal education
  6. Google
  7. Books
  8. Parents/family


What channel of information worked well and why?

  1. Discussion groups / farm walks / practical demos
  2. Advisor
  3. Lecturers/education
  4. Seminars/conferences
  5. Videos
  6. Demonstration models
  7. Press
  8. Hands on learning
  9. Peer to peer


What other possibilities are there

  1. Targeted posters/billboards at marts, vet practices…etc.
  2. Leaflets in public places
  3. YouTube videos
  4. Sheep calendar/ pocket notebook
  5. Webinars-linked to programmes
  6. Press


How could it be improved?

  1. Year round financial implications of BCS
  2. Emphasise the consequences of not having correct BCS
  3. Take home booklets
  4. Simple messages on multiple platforms
  5. Repeat often
  6. Allow all farmers in a group to be hands on


What isn’t available/ what do we need to create

  1. Financial implications of BCS
  2. Benefits of handling….don’t need to be exact
  3. Taking opportunities to spread the message on BCS
  4. Pocket calendar with advice on BCS
  5. Survey to see average BCS on farms across year
  6. Education- start young
  7. Need to maintain BCS rather than trying to gain it twice a year
  8. Online interactive calendar based around lambing date


Group 2: Ewe nutrition

Where do you get information (who, what channel)

  1. Teagasc advisory service
  2. Private advisors
  3. Discussion groups
  4. Farming  press
  5. Targeted monthly news letter


What channel of information worked well and why?

  1. Discussion groups/ peer to peer (common issues, advice, common problems, hand on experience)
  2. Producer groups
  3. Research results via press
  4. Flyers, hard paper for outside use


What other possibilities are there

  1. Social media
  2. Tailored workshops on nutrition
  3. SheepNet website
  4. Sheep production manual
  5. Forage evaluation


How could it be improved?

  1. Education (more formal education of sheep farmers)
  2. Information at correct time of year
  3. Access to information all year around
  4. Info must be easily understood
  5. More involvement in discussion groups


What isn’t available/ what do we need to create

  1. Tailored sheep advisory service
  2. Up to date blueprint book on sheep farming
  3. Continuous feedback from all supply chain
  4. More advisors in close contact with farmers
  5. Advice can be too technical







Tips and tricks

The next section of the TNWS focused Tips and Tricks , including the Irish Tips and Tricks presented in Spain, results of voting on Tips and Tricks, Tips and Tricks the Irish delegation voted for and some explanation and discussion on Tips and Tricks that interested Irish delegation.




Solutions to be evaluated by farmers

During the meeting, the participants were asked to identify any solutions they would like to test on their own farm in the next year. The farmers/advisors that are going to implement each of the purchased solutions are outlines in the table below


To be tested by

Paper tally of lamb losses

John Renehan

Health control and abortion

Damian Costello, Seamus fagan

Body condition scoring kit

Damien Costello

Testing colostrum quality

John Brooks, John Curley





SheepNet tour of New Zealand

Tim presented on the SheepNet tour of New Zealand tour and gave an over view of sheep production in New Zealand. He discussed how sheep production has changed in the last 25 years in New Zealand compared to Ireland. The ewe population in New Zealand has declined by 52% while the number of lambs reared per ewe increased by 28% and lamb carcass weight has increased by 34%. During the same period in Ireland ewe numbers have decreased by 46%, carcass weight has increased by 5% lamb carcass output had declined by 46%.

Tim also gave a presentation on each of the farm visits discussing the scale of the operations and discussed the fact that the farms had many enterprises such as sheep, cattle and deer. He discussed how each farm was aiming for high productivity and the methods they used to achieve this. The handling facilities were also discussed as well as the staffing requirements of these large sheep farms. This presentation was followed by a lengthy group discussion on New Zealand systems and what Irish farmers can learn from their production systems.






Meeting close


Tim closed the meeting by thanking all who attended and encouraged them to stay connected with SheepNet on website and social media. He also discussed the dates of the next Irish NWS, the TNWS in Sardinia on November 26th to 30th 2018 and the Irish TNWS on 12th to 13th June 2019


Photos of the Irish national workshop 19th October 2018













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