The 2016 winner of the AHDB Beef & Lamb Better Returns Programme Improved Flock Award for Shropshire sheep is the Shebdon flock of Staffordshire, owned by Mr and Mrs Peter and Donna Tavernor. This award is presented to the English Signet performance recorded flock that makes the greatest improvement in the breeding potential of the lamb crop during the year.
The AHDB BRP aims to highlight the financial impact that improved breeding and better lamb selection strategies can have on commercial flock profitability.
This award seeks to reward those breeders that are using Estimated Breeding Values to enhance the performance of their flocks and assist them to promote their achievement. The impact of performance recorded stock is significant and is increasing every year because of the activities of progressive farmers.
The Tavernor family have a long history with the breed, as early as 1885 Peter’s great- grandfather had a flock of Shropshire sheep. The Shebdon flock was established in 2001 with ewes and a ram (Clinton Charlie) bought from D N Crow and Mrs S Wadland.
Ram purchases include Ushers Urbert (KX:10047) who was bought in 2010 as the flock’s first Signet recorded ram. His genetics are still influencing the flock as he left a legacy of good maternal traits. Hayne Oak Lucas (LX:10040) was bought in 2012 at the society sale, chosen for his high terminal sire index. Today lambs are bred for all- round performance; current top sire Ushers Vulcan has both maternal and terminal indexes of 248 which put him in the top 10% of the breed. While EBVs play an important role the Tavernors also select for breed type and easy care traits such as good feet, low rates of dagging and the ability to finish off grass.
The Shebdon flock are kept on the Tavernor’s small grassland holding while Easycare ewes are managed on land bordering Mrs Tavernor’s plant nursery. All the sheep are kept commercially with lambing in April and lambs finished off grass whenever possible.
The Tavernors’ daughter Donna keeps her own Madeley flock of Shropshires. Future plans for Shebdon include a continued improvement in flock performance using the existing breeding programme.
In 2006 the Shropshire Sheep Society introduced the Shropshire Breed Improvement Scheme to enhance the growth and carcase conformation of Shropshire lambs and the prolificacy and maternal ability of Shropshire ewes. The scheme uses Signet recording to achieve its aims. As of March 2016 there are eighteen Shropshire breeders enrolled in the scheme and recording with Signet.