Neil McGowan of Incheoch Farms in Perthshire, Scotland was the third speaker as part of this year’s Irish Grassland Association’s virtual sheep event.
Debbie and Neil farm 1,200 breeding ewes and 220 suckler cows on 485 hectares of upland, ranging from 400 to 750 feet above sea level.
The focus of the farm is to produce lamb and beef from grass and forage crops grown.
The husband and wife team lamb all ewes outdoors from late April with minimal intervention.
Of the 1,200 ewes on the farm, there are 800 performance-recorded Lleyn ewes and 100 performance-recorded Texel ewes.
Neil and Debbie use EID technology to record a large amount of data on each animal. From this, estimated breeding values are produced, allowing for selecting the top-performing animals to breed the next generation.
Focusing on traits such as lambing ease, maternal ability and ewe efficiency allows the McGowans to select for the most commercially viable ewes that need minimal shepherding.
Faecal egg counting and grassland management
All sheep are involved in faecal egg counting breeding programmes with the Lleyn and Texel societies to breed for better worm resistance.
The careful selection for desirable traits has seen the twinning rate increase from 65% to 75% over the past ten years, and live lamb weight at 150 days increase by 3.8kg in the same period.
They constantly assess grassland management to improve animal performance. They finish all lambs off grass or forage crops with no concentrate supplementation while they outwinter ewes on swedes.
The farm aims to produce functional, efficient, and robust sheep. They sell up to 90 rams to other farmers for breeding at their annual working genes on-farm sale.