Julie Bury (JUB)
Laine Daff (BLG)
Robin Johnson - Chairman (AP) - (flock visit info)
Stan Kilby (AST)
Janet Richardson - Secretary (JER)
Johnny Stables - (YY)

Robin Johnson



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Costs and benefits of performance testing in the Winholme flock.

Winner EBLEX progressive flock award 2010 for the Bleu Du Maine sire reference scheme, BLUE SIRES

The Winholme flock has 100 registered sheep kept on a commercial system using grass that the 130 dairy herd cannot graze. This means the flock is evolving in an environment that mirrors the commercial systems that stock rams will be sold into. The flock has been recorded since 1995, losing one flock in the 2001 foot and mouth cull but re- established in 2002.

Although the strength of the breed is in the female line, Blue Sires record on a terminal sire index.                                                                                                                                                                  

Recording involves....                                        

LAMBING INFORMATION...sire, dam, litter size, date of birth and birth weight                          

8 WEEK WEIGHT ....the group weight will be adjusted to give a 56 day weight and is a very relevant maternal trait for the Bleu du Maine (BdM)

SCAN and 21 WEEK WEIGHT…the eye muscle is considered to be well developed at around 21 weeks of age and usually a 30% variation can be revealed within the lamb crop.  Measurement of eye muscle depth across the loin correlates well with the total yield of muscle within the entire carcase, so an increase in muscling in this area will also lead to increases in muscling throughout the carcase - including the gigot.                                                                                                                   

Back fat is measured in three places across the loin and an average used in the analysis, less back fat is considered good and in the final results given as a minus figure.  Fat depth is not a problem for the BdM which is a relatively lean breed but the analysis helps breeders to select rams with the optimum amount of fat for their particular production system.

When EBVs (estimated breeding values) are given, a percentage accuracy is shown. 
Sharing rams across flocks raises the accuracy as flocks become connected.

 The Bleu du Maine sire reference scheme has increased all production traits in 2012.

All potential purchases can be identified in the Signet website: 

By clicking on the EBV search box, typing in the breeder’s name or tag number of the animal, all EBV data will be given as an easy to read bar chart allowing desirable traits to be identified with an accuracy figure.

Table 2

The REWARDS of RECORDING                                   
In a parallel world a flock could be established as a successful show flock secure in the belief that ‘If you don’t know a good sheep when you see one, you shouldn’t be breeding them!’   

Show success could be maintained by not measuring production traits but with a strong preference given to type. Growth EBVs would probably remain constant over the years.

Compare this to a flock of recorded sheep with an AVERAGE scan weight of +4.35kg. 

At £1.75/kg each lamb has an EXTRA value of +£7.61.
If lambs were sold from both flocks on the same day(150days,scan age) from 100 ewe flock mated with rams of the same breed with 180% weaned:
180 lambs x 4.35kg x £1.75/kg = £1370 EXTRA income from IMPROVED genetics.

If a ram from the top 10% (+6.76kg) is used, lambs could be sold earlier and stocking rates increased.
If a ewe produces 8 viable lambs of the same merit before being replaced:
8 lambs x 4.35kg x £1.75/kg = £61.00/ewe increased output.

Use a ram from the top 10% and the final figure becomes higher.

If the shepherd of tomorrow is computer literate and with I.D. tags and a weigh crate as his management tools, Key Production Indicators (KPIs) of ewe efficiency, daily live weight gain and lamb losses will be at his fingertips.

We have to breed sheep that perform or the shepherd of tomorrow will have no use for them.

You are only as good a farmer as the last sheep you sold.