• Investigating the role of stocking rate and prolificacy potential on profitability of grass based sheep production systems

      Bohan, A.; Creighton, Philip; Boland, T.M.; Shalloo, Laurence; Earle, Elizabeth; McHugh, Noirin; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 15/S/696 (Elsevier BV, 2018-02-21)
      The objective of this study was to simulate and compare the profitability of a grass based sheep production system under three stocking rates and two prolificacy rates. Analysis was conducted using the Teagasc Lamb Production Model (TLPM), a stochastic budgetary simulation model of a sheep farm. Experimental data from the Teagasc Athenry Research Demonstration Flock was used to parameterise the model at three stocking rates (10, 12 and 14 ewes/ha) and two prolificacy potentials (1.5 and 1.8 lambs weaned per ewe joined to the ram). The TLPM assessed the performance of the key factors affecting profitability and was also used to evaluate the spread in profitability associated with some stochastic variables included in the analysis. The number of lambs weaned per hectare increased with stocking rate and prolificacy potential from 16 lambs/ha to 27 lambs/ha resulting in carcass weight produced per hectare ranging from 272 kg/ha to 474 kg/ha. Increasing stocking rates resulted in lower individual lamb performance from grass and milk, thereby increasing the proportion of lambs which required concentrate for finishing, which resulted in higher input costs on a per animal basis. As the number of lambs weaned per hectare increased, net profit increased from €361/ha to €802/ha. Across all stocking rates, increasing weaning rate from 1.5 to 1.8 lambs weaned per ewe joined increased net profit, on average, by €336/ha. Increasing stocking rate, at 1.5 lambs weaned per ewe joined, increased net profit on average by €15/ha while increasing stocking rate, at 1.8 lambs weaned per ewe joined increased net profit on average by €87/ha. Risk analysis showed that across all stocking rates the high prolificacy scenarios achieved greater profits across the variation in input variables. Results from this study indicate that lambs weaned per hectare linked with grass growth and utilisations are the key drivers of profitability on Irish grass based sheep production systems.