Dr Seamus Hanrahan

Dr. Seamus Hanrahan receives the IGA lifetime merit award.

Dr Tim Keady, Teagasc, Athenry

The recipient of the Irish Grassland Association Life Time Merit award for 2013 is Dr. Seamus Hanrahan. This prestigious award is a public endorsement by the IGA of the important contribution of an individual to the understanding and production of animal product from grassland. Dr. Hanrahan received the award for his outstanding contribution to prime lamb production from grassland through innovative and applied science allied with his leadership and determination to transfer all technology to the industry - particularly the development of the Belclare breed, work on genetic control of ovulation rate and embryo survival, genetic variation in lamb growth and carcass composition, parasite control, both through management and genetic means, measurement of grass intake and nutrition.

Seamus joined the AFT Western Research Centre at Belclare, Co. Galway. His initial work focused on factors influencing ovulation rate, thus litter size, and evaluation of ewe genotypes. In 1981 Seamus became Head of the Sheep Department in AFT (and subsequently Teagasc) a position which he held until he retired in 2010. Also, in 1985 Seamus was appointed Acting Assistant Director of AFT.

In the 1980’s Seamus evaluated factors affecting grass intake in sheep, differing in breed, age, stage of lactation and number of lambs reared, by modifying and improving the n-alkane methodology. Initiated in 1988 and for the next 25 odd years Seamus continuously selected within pure-bred flocks of Suffolk and Texel for growth rate to demonstrate the potential benefits of exploiting genetics. In the 1990’s and 2000’s Dr Hanrahan showed that ewe breeds differ in parasite resistance and subsequently set about identifying the genes involved.

Throughout his career Seamus worked on the genetics of the reproduction of ewes, lamb growth and carcass composition; and actively encouraged and facilitated work on grassland management and ewe nutrition. A lasting memorial of his work will be the Belclare breed which he developed for prolificacy whilst also having good carcass characteristics. This work involved establishment and active collaboration with the Belclare Sheep Society

Seamus is firm believer in technology transfer and has addressed IGA sheep conferences on at least 10 occasions since their initiation in the mid 1980’s. In 2000 he was responsible for initiating a Technology Evaluation and Transfer (TET) programme. The aim of the TET programme was to develop more effective transfer and evaluation of technology from research to the wider industry through the direct partnership with 45 commercial farms throughout Ireland,. The main emphasis of this programme revolved around effective prime lamb production from grazed grass. This project preceded the current Better Farm Sheep and Beef programmes, which Seamus was instrumental in establishing in 2008.

Seamus has served as an external examiner for the Bachelor degree in the Faculty of Agriculture, University College Dublin, and for PhD degrees in many universities in Ireland and overseas. He was Senior Editor of the Irish Journal of Agriculture and Food Research for 20 years.

In summary, Dr. Seamus Hanrahan has been the cornerstone, and leader, in research and technology transfer to the Irish sheep industry in Ireland for the last 40 years. Therefore it is an honour for the Irish grassland Association to award Dr. Seamus Hanrahan the Lifetime Merit Sward for 2013 in recognition of his lifelong contribution to, and his leadership of, animal science research, particularly research relating to prime lamb production from grass based systems, and the transfer of these findings to all levels of the industry.