The North's Department of Agriculture has invested £825,000 (€921,666) in a new sheep housing and handling facility at the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise’s (CAFRE) Greenmount Campus.

The new facilities will allow students and local sheep farmers access to innovative technologies which will enable them to learn about the very latest sheep rearing and management techniques, according to the department.

This access to new facilities, in the long-term, is to deliver tangible benefits to the Northern Ireland sheep industry.

Some of the cutting edge features of the sheep house include:

  • Handling facilities.
  • Footbaths.
  • A curved race.
  • Equipment to identify, weigh and draft animals.
  • Modern flooring system.

Sheep farmers will be able to safely and efficiently handle large numbers of animals using these new facilities at Greenmount Campus.

Also included in the facilities is the latest Sheep Electronic Identification (EID) technology and software to aid management decisions.

To improve the health and welfare of housed ewes, a modern flooring system has been installed.

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Meanwhile, slurry management aspects such as tanks, mixing points and flush systems to provide adequate storage and safety for stock and operators have all been included.

Furthermore, the sheep house boasts environmentally sustainable rainwater harvesting technology and natural ventilation, which will help to reduce overheads and minimise environmental impact, according to DAERA.

The new sheep facilities with the education and training benefits it may bring will help underpin the future of sustainable sheep farming in Northern Ireland, CAFRE’s Director Martin McKendry has said.

“The sheep industry is worth around £63m to the local economy every year and provides employment to 15% of the farm workforce.

"The international marketplace is becoming ever more competitive and it is vital, therefore, that we are positioned to equip our students and farmers with the knowledge and skills they need to develop and manage sustainable and successful farm businesses."

This new facility will enable us to deliver the very best sheep management training to thousands of young people for many years to come.

The new building has been constructed with support and advice from industry experts including the Ulster Farmers' Union, National Sheep Association, AFBI and Glenwherry Hill Regeneration Project.

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It came into use this month for student practical demonstration work which involved preparing ewes for mating.

The first sheep are expected to be housed over the forthcoming winter months and industry technology awareness events are planned for later this year.

The CAFRE Hill farm at Glenwherry has a flock of 1,100 ewes which provide a range of services to CAFRE students, farmers and the agriculture industry.