Genetic progress in Meatlinc breeding is measured in decades, not years, with George managing the flock established by his grandfather Henry in 1974 and supporting other Meatlinc breeders.
Working together is key to the success of the group, with breeders based in Cornwall, Herefordshire, Yorkshire, Scotland, Northern Ireland, France and Austria.
The group meet twice per year to compare rams, exchange genetics and select a reference ram for use by AI. This enables more accurate comparisons to be made between the flocks.
Their diverse locations mean the breeders are not competing for clients and can work together on promotional and marketing strategies, which would simply not be possible if they were neighbours.
The pace of change has increased in recent years, having secured the services of the SRUC mobile CT scanner on ram selection day. This ensures every potential Meatlinc stock ram is CT scanned before use. In a few years every Meatlinc lamb will be by a CT scanned sire, out of a ewe whose sire was CT scanned.
Inbreeding rates are checked annually and despite the flock being closed for four decades, rates remain low.
The big change over the past decade for the Meatlinc Sheep Company is the establishment of a pioneering R&D project, referred to as gene fishing. Meatlinc ewes have been crossed to elite Suffolk, Texel and Charollais sires, then backcrossed to lock in new genes for growth and muscling. The project could provide new options for Meatlinc breeders in the future, enabling the breed to more than keep pace with the numerically larger terminal sire breeds.
Tips for success
- Work with others. Meet regularly to exchange ideas and share rams to build strong genetic linkage between flocks
- When it comes to marketing, the best collaboration is between breeders who are not competing in the same geographic area
- Make use of new technology – such as CT scanning and crossbred evaluations