The 2016 winner of the AHDB Beef & Lamb Better Returns Programme Improved Flock Award for Wiltshire Horn sheep is the Gruzelier flock of Cornwall, owned by George Gruzelier. 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.
Mr Gruzelier, a former farm manager, bought ten Wiltshire Horn sheep when he and his wife moved to Cornwall in 2004. They now keep 27 ewes on their ten acre holding. The ewes graze outdoors all year round but are brought in for lambing and kept in for ten days post- partum to encourage lanolin production in the lambs’ wool. During this period the ewes are supplemented with sheep nuts.
The sheep lamb in February and March and are split into two groups; the ten best ewes are put to a pure bred Wiltshire Horn ram and the remainder are covered by a Roussin. This ensures that only the best performance genetics are kept in the flock. The best ewe lambs and one ram are retained and the remainder are sold, the Roussin crosses entering the food chain.
Rams are purchased and rotated every two years; recent acquisitions include tups from the Abbess flock and from Dr Jean Burke’s local Ventonglidder flock.
Abbess Quercus has been extensively used as a sire in 2015 and his high maternal ability EBV and index have had a positive impact on the overall genetic merit of the flock.
The Wiltshire Horn index has been recently updated to place a greater emphasis on growth rates, carcase traits and prolificacy. The Maternal Ability EBV is still weighted at 52.73% of the index but will have slightly less of an influence on genetic progress in the future.