Three new estimated breeding values (EBVs) have been generated as a result of a major industry sheep breeding initiative which will help commercial producers to select rams which have the best potential to produce progeny that are more likely to meet market specification.
Preliminary results from the RamCompare project were released to the industry at the Sheep Breeders’ Round Table on 17 November 2017.
The initial results rank the leading sires within the project for a range of traits including eight-week weight, scan weight, muscle depth, fat depth, carcase weight, carcase conformation, carcase fat class and overall carcase merit. The results rank the performance of rams on the trial using data collected from their progeny. For some breeds, animals in the top one per cent were nominated and for others only the top 25 per cent and so conclusions about breed differences should be made with caution.
The new EBVs cover carcase conformation, carcase fat class and carcase weight and are published within the report for the first time. Other data, such as ultrasound measures of muscle and fat depth have been used to enhance existing EBVs.
RamCompare is the UK’s first commercial progeny test for terminal sire rams and more than 4,000 ewes were mated to more than 70 leading rams through artificial insemination and natural service across two breeding seasons.
Bridget Lloyd, RamCompare Project Coordinator, said: “RamCompare has proven that robust data can be collected throughout the supply chain and this has led to new approaches in assessing the performance of pedigree animals. The new EBVs produced will enable commercial producers to select rams which have the potential to produce progeny that are more likely to meet market specification. Such rams will be used by pedigree breeders to produce more animals with commercially important traits.”
Duncan Nelless, RamCompare farmer from Northumberland, said: “Being part of RamCompare clearly showed me the financial advantage of selecting breeding stock using EBVs and using rams with the right EBVs for my system. I saw differences of £4-5 when using rams with the highest genetic merit compared to others on the trial.”
The results will be updated in May 2018, with the inclusion of a further 1,500 carcase records for lambs born in late spring 2017 which were finished later in the year.
The preliminary results and project report can be found here
Phase two of the project is well underway involving eight farms in England, Wales and Scotland plus a research farm in Northern Ireland. This means more data can be collected on hard-to-measure traits and rams from more breeds are being tested.
For AHDB, the RamCompare farms are part the wider AHDB Farm Excellence Platform, which inspires industry to improve performance and succeed through farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange.