The Foulrice flock started performance recording back in 1983. Having weight recorded over 13,000 lambs over the past 32 years, Charles Marwood understands the advantage of performance testing in a large flock.
The first benefit is that rams are always well tested. New rams and homebred ram lambs will drop more than 25 lambs in their first season and their genetic potential for growth and muscling is quickly assessed.
The ability to test new breeding lines allows Charles to even test unrecorded rams, to see if their visual appeal is matched by the performance of their lambs. Not every new stock ram meets Charles’s high standards, but in a large flock, the progeny of less successful sires can go to slaughter and the situation is quickly remedied.
A tip within any flock is to mate the best 20% of the ewes to rams that might lead to the production of a future stock ram. These are elite ewes and any male progeny they give birth to are likely to take the flock forward.
In any breed there are only a small number of outstanding rams. When they come along, do not be afraid to use them widely. Using established stock sires over a number of seasons provides an important benchmark against which the progeny of other rams will be compared. It will also deliver robust data to enable the Best Linear Unbiased Prediction (BLUP) analysis to handle differences in management between seasons.
In the Foulrice flock, rams like Ash Charollais Fillibuster (YFD:05002) who produced 1,050 progeny over eight years and more recently Dalby Mount Aloe (PE:1201524) with 470 progeny over the past three years, provide that benchmark.
Having large numbers of progeny is a real asset. However, it is important to ensure lambs are fairly compared with each other. Breeders must record any differences in management and assign lambs to ‘management groups’, at eight weeks of age and at scanning time. This approach ensures the performance of lambs is only compared when they have been treated in the same way.
Tips for success
- Mate the top 20% of flock ewes to sires capable of producing future stock rams
- Use lower-rated ewes to progeny test new rams
- Elite stock sires should be used over several seasons
- Record management groups accurately
Table 16: A decade of genetic improvement for the Foulrice Flock
| Scan weight
| Muscle Depth
| Fat Depth
| Terminal Sire