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With popular breeds such as the Texel and Suffolk it is sometimes difficult for individual flocks to stand out. While there might be many customers for the stock, there is also tremendous competition. This is good news for the ram buyer, but means breeders have to excel in their work, particularly when selling at very large sales like Kelso.

This is exactly the challenge faced by Alan, who has sold around 60 rams a year at Kelso for more than 35 years. As an established vendor, the flock name and sheep are well known, with Suffolk and Texel shearlings averaging £876 and £720 respectively in 2014 – topping at £2,000.

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Performance recording is part of the Rugley flock’s success story. After years of providing customers with unbiased, reliable information on the genetic merit of each animal, increasing numbers of customers will now only source sheep with performance data behind them.

This demand is a double-edged sword, as it means vendors now have to produce sheep with good figures. If sheep are only ‘average’, knowledgeable clients will soon start looking elsewhere.

Computed Tomography scanning provides Rugley with another unique selling point. Alan has supported the CT unit at Edinburgh for 16 years, taking 141 Suffolk lambs and 83 Texels there.

Few breeders have as much data behind their animals and this information has been converted into genetic gain. Many of the Rugley ram lambs are in the top 10% of the breed. Many are trait leaders for gigot shape, such as the ram Rugley Terrific, giving the flock a unique selling point.

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But even long-established flocks cannot afford to sit back. Clients constantly need reminding about the superiority of the flock. However, in the age of social media, many can be reached at the click of button, with a bit of help from daughter Lucy.

Tips for success

  • Create a unique selling point to stand out
  • Adopt technology that will give the flock an edge
  • Understand the market, particularly at a highly competitive multi-vendor sales

Table 13: A decade of genetic improvement for the Rugley Texel Flock

Year Lambs 8 wk

weigh EBV

Scan Weight

EBV

Muscle Depth

EBV

Fat Depth

EBV

Terminal Sire Index
 2005 63 3.27  7.54 2.61  0.02 252
 2015  109  5.72  12.94  3.61  0.41  371
 Gain  2.45 5.40  1.00 0.39  119

Table 14: A decade of genetic improvement for the Rugley Suffolk Flock

Year Lambs 8 wk

weigh EBV

Scan Weight

EBV

Muscle Depth

EBV

Fat Depth

EBV

Terminal Sire Index
 2005  171  3.27  7.27  2.61  0.11  £2.58
 2015  239  5.51  11.12  3.73  0.21  £4.13
 Gain  2.24  3.85  1.12  0.10  £1.55