Have a clear focus and keep an eye on the future
Aragon Skinner Romneys
The Aragon Romney flock was established in 1976, at a time when one of the challenges within this durable, maternal breed was the number of lambs being reared per ewe. Additional genetics were sourced from the Wye College Romney development flock.
Flock recording with MLC began in 1986 with a lambing percentage of around 150%; by 2000 200% was regularly achieved. The number of single born lambs has fallen from 33% to 17% in recent years, including hogget lambing.
Focus then shifted more heavily towards selection for eight-week weight and milk production to optimise lamb growth rates. Ram lambs are used to shorten the generation interval, further increasing rates of genetic gain.
Having produced a prolific, productive ewe, Hugh, who is a vet, turned his attention towards the use of Faecal Egg Counts (FEC) within his breeding programme. 2015 will be the 11th year undertaking FEC measurements and producing EBVs for this trait within the flock.
Hugh can see first-hand that lamb health has improved and scouring reduced over this period, which he believes delivers a real economic benefit to his clients.
Hugh is not afraid to innovate, having developed the Romney 2000 – a Romney composite with an infusion of Texel genetics. He is now busy progeny testing NZ Romney genetics to see how they compare to his own.
In 2015 a new breeding group will be created to bring together likeminded Romney breeders to share in the benefits derived from selective breeding. Reference rams have been selected and the group eagerly await their first across-flock analysis.
Tips for success
- Focus on economically important traits
- Change breeding goals as genetic progress is achieved or the market changes
- Scan the horizon for new technology that can provide a unique selling point