IFA National Sheep Committee Chairman John Lynskey has said IFA has raised a number of very important issues with Teagasc over proposed changes at the sheep research facilities in Athenry and the introduction of a commercial suckler enterprise on the site. “At a meeting in November, IFA made it very clear to the Director of Teagasc that the sheep research programme cannot be diluted in any way as a result of the changes in Athenry.”
In addition, John Lynskey said IFA raised farmer concerns about maintaining the highly respected independence of Teagasc research work across all sectors and ensuring that this is preserved.
The IFA sheep Chairman said sheep farmers are worried and concerned when they hear of changes in Athenry and a reduction in the farming area for sheep, as they feel sheep did not come out well from the closures of Knockbeg, Lenane, Blindwell and Creagh over the years.
John Lynskey said in response to IFA concerns, Teagasc have confirmed that they are fully committed to the sheep research programme in Athenry. In addition, Teagasc have set out a number of commitments in this regard including:
- Teagasc will maintain a sheep research flock of 1,200 ewes plus 250 replacements, plus 90 rams, plus capacity for store lamb and meat quality studies on 128 ha;
- Despite the moratorium on recruitment, Teagasc have recruited two new sheep research personnel in the last three years and as a priority will appoint another person to a permanent research post;
- Teagasc have committed to maintain all existing sheep research projects and will commence a number of new sheep research projects in 2015 on breeding with Sheep Ireland on genotypes, a comparison of elite New Zealand and Irish Suffolk and Texel genotypes, sheep genomic selection and mineral nutrition in ewes and lambs;
- Additional external funding of €1.1m has been acquired to commence a four-year genomic selection programme with Sheep Ireland;
- The Teagasc Sheep BETTER farms will be expanded from 10 to 13 in 2015, with nine lowland farms and four hill/mountain sheep farms.
John Lynskey said it is vital that Teagasc maintain a strong independent sheep research and advisory programme across the entire sheep sector. He said good progress has been made on the Teagasc sheep programme in the last number of years and this momentum must continue. He said it cannot be diluted or impacted in any way by the proposed changes in Athenry.