The adoption of key management practices to improve farm productivity has been key in coming out the right side of a challenging year. This was the view expressed by sheep farmer Shane Moore at the recent Teagasc BETTER farm programme sheep walk held on his farm in Athleague, Co Roscommon.

Shane told farmers in attendance that the year to date has been one of the most challenging, with prolonged inclement weather significantly increasing the workload of even the most mundane of tasks.

Despite this challenging environment, the results of 40-day weighing, detailed in Table 1, were better than anticipated and exceeded lamb performance recorded in 2023.

Shane attributes the relatively positive performance to a combination of practices adopted over several years rather than any one aspect.

Changes highlighted for special mention include improved facilities, an enhanced breeding programme, superior grassland management and optimum animal nutrition.

Improved facilities

Farmers do not need to be reminded of the persistent testing weather throughout March, April and May. The higher levels of lamb mortality often experienced in the first 48 hours of life were prolonged to the first week to two weeks with aged lambs also succumbing to extreme weather.

A new sheep shed built on the farm at the end of 2020 has become increasingly valuable with flock numbers growing and lambing condensed into a tighter timeframe.

The farm also moved away from lambing yearling hoggets in 2024 due to work commitments and this gave more scope to retain lambs indoors, where required.

“Up until this year, I was lambing some ewe lambs. Typically, rams were joined with ewe for two weeks and then introduced to ewe lambs. With the extra work in lambing ewe lambs and a change in job circumstances and time off not as easily got, something had to give, so the ewe lambs were pulled.”

In the region of 89% of ewes lambed within three weeks in 2024. Shane is looking to repeat this performance in 2025 and confined lambing to a three-week period.

He is considering joining rams for just 3.5 to four weeks in 2024 with a larger batch of more than 200 ewes to end up with about 200 ewes lambing down.

Breeding progress

A closed flock policy is in place and Shane explains that the selection of potential replacements begins before breeding even commences. This is due to ewes being selected and joined with particular rams for single-sire mating.

The breed of rams run on the farm include Belclare, Suffolk, Texel and a Bluefaced Leicester x Texel ram. Group sizes are kept small with a ram typically joined to 25 ewes. Rams are switched between groups to reduce the consequences of ram subfertility or infertility.

The focus in recent years has been to incorporate more Belclare genetics into the breeding programme to lift litter size.

As detailed in Table 1, ewes scanned two lambs per ewe joined in 2024 and this is seen as the optimum prolificacy on the farm. As such, the breeding programme will likely utilise Belclare genetics in a criss-cross breeding programme.

Lambs are tagged at birth and lambs born from a twin litter to a ewe displaying good mothering ability, milk yield, etc, are fitted with a coloured disc when tagged.

Shane, Kelly and Ryan Moore with mid-season lambing ewes.

If a lamb performs poorly thereafter, and records an inferior seven-week or weaning weight, or experiences significant problems such as persistent lameness, then a snip is inserted into the tag and that ewe lamb is moved off the farm.

Grassland management

This spring was the first year where sheep were moved off the home farm due to tight grass supplies.

The extent of the challenge faced was reflected in the fact that during the same period in 2023 surplus grass was taken out of the rotation and baled.

Grass supplies got back on track in the second half of May with a few paddocks removed from the rotation and baled. The increase in grassland productivity has stemmed from a combination of improving grazing infrastructure and addressing poor soil fertility.

Larger paddocks have been split using four to five strands of electric wire on the home farm to 2ac blocks.

Water troughs have been set up with piping running along the ground so they can serve four paddocks.

Divisions which were initially installed as temporary to see how they worked have remained in place and during peak growth, certain paddocks are split again to one acre with the aim of giving sheep two to three days grazing per division.

Shane says that this is delivering majorly in improving sward recovery and grass regrowth.

Four options are used at this stage of the year to maintain quality – take surplus grass out of the rotation, use cattle to graze out stronger swards, or dry hoggets following ewes and lambs, along with topping paddocks where the other three options will not rectify sward quality.

Regular grass measuring and budgeting is highlighted as being integral to identifying a grass surplus or deficient developing and putting plans in place to rectify such.


oil fertility

Addressing soil fertility is also highlighted as bringing about a substantial improvement in both grass growth and sward quality.

A nutrient management plan is developed each year with compound fertilisers and slurry targeted to soils with a phosphorus/potassium deficiency or to replace nutrients removed through silage harvesting.

Reseeding has only started to take place in the last two years, as it was viewed that there was lower hanging fruit to benefit from, while it was viewed that the benefits of reseeding would not be utilised at a lower stocking rate.

Any reseeding taking place now is incorporating clover with the aim of reducing fertiliser use in the future.


The farm has already learned some lessons with regards clover establishment.

Clover was incorporated through oversowing into two areas last year with one deemed successful and the second failing.

Shane's rotational grazing system operates on low-cost temporary fencing.

It was difficult to manage this size of an area and in particular to graze out swards sufficiently to promote clover establishment. The aim is to incorporate clover into smaller areas, allowing more precise management.

Farm facts

Shane, Kelly and Ryan Moore run a flock of 200 mid-season lambing ewes alongside 50 dry ewe hoggets, 16 yearling cattle and

10 dairy-beef cattle on 30ha in Athleague, Co Roscommon (including 13ha Turlough of which 8ha is grazeable).

  • Good facilities and farm infrastructure are key requirements to operating a high-output system.
  • Breeding decisions start before breeding with performance records allowing decisions to be based on proven performance.
  • Addressing grazing infrastructure and soil fertility is more valuable in the short term than reseeding.