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The 2017 winner of the AHDB Beef & Lamb Better Returns Programme Improved Flock Award for Shropshire sheep is the flock owned by James Thompson at Sansaw Farms near Shropshire. 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 previous year.

The AHDB Better Returns Programme 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.

James Thompson and family have been at Sansaw Farms near Shrewsbury for around 150 years. The Shropshire flock was reintroduced to Sansaw Estate in 2007 after the original flock had been dispersed in 1998. Shropshire’s have been part of James’ family since the 1800s and as a native breed they thought it important to bring them back as part of the landscape, they were greatly missed.

The Sansaw flock is made up of 25-30 ewes kept within a tightly managed nucleus flock. They breed their own replacements, keeping around 30% of the top ewe lambs and they buy in stock rams. James began performance recording in 2008 along with many other breeders. James uses the performance figures to aid his purchase of rams. He concentrates on the index as a whole in order to produce a functional sheep that is able to produce replacements and aid the breed’s natural carcass qualities. In 2016 James selected a Alderton tup – LU:15447 Alderton Chubster which is in the Top 5% of the Maternal Index and the Top 25% for the Terminal Sire Index. Alderton Chubster has high muscle depth,  2.48mm greater than average (Top 5%) and Scan Weight EBVs are also in the top 25% of the breed. James will use the same ram for two breeding seasons and then will sell on. This allows the genetics within the flock to be continually changing and improve.

James sells to both pedigree and commercial breeders. He occasionally sells off farm and usually attends the annual Society Show and Sale at Shrewsbury in July. James does not show any sheep throughout the summer, however this is something that he thinks he could invest more time in, for flock marketing purposes.

The Shropshire flock are kept as a side line enterprise and a hobby for James, as Sansaw Farms runs a 1500 pedigree Holstein Dairy unit and operates a property business, the management of the flock is kept tight. The ewes are given only one turn with the ram and those which do not hold are then culled. Therefore fertility is a non-recorded trait that James concentrates highly on. The flock lambs in April after the spring calving of the dairy herd therefore the tight management plan is to aid the farm workers.

Regarding the future James plans to continue breeding high quality, high index sheep. In 2016 the Sansaw flock was in the top 10% of the breed for both the Maternal Index and Terminal Sire Index. He is delighted about winning the award this year and was surprised at the news.  He is thrilled as this award confirms they are doing something right especially as the flock has won the award previously. James would like to thank Ioan Hughes and all that work on Sansaw Farms for their continued hard work and dedication.

EBVs for LU:15447 Alderton Chubster

This Alderton ram has high levels of muscle, with 2.49mm more than average. He is lean, with a negative fat depth value. He also has greater than average growth rates, which can be seen by the scan weights.


Maternal index of 238 places him within the Top 5% of the breed.