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Peregrine Aubrey is in his tenth year of recording. He started because he was retaining replacement ewes and had no real data on which to select them. He also couldn’t tell how good the rams he was buying in were. “It has been a really positive experience. I have gone from near the bottom of the Lleyn ranking to the very top in nine years.”

“However the demand for improved genetics is far lower than I had hoped for and it is both me and the sheep farming community who are losing out. Breeding and buying improved sheep genetics is mutually beneficial especially as rams with EBVs don’t have to cost that much extra.” “Ask yourself this, would a dairy farmer use semen to breed for replacement heifers without EBVs or indeed GEBVs.”

Peregrine has not found the cost or time spent recording too onerous. But says if you want to get all available EBVs it can become more specialised e.g. weighing at birth for lamb survival and Individual FEC and saliva tests for worm resistance EBVs.

In terms of improvements, there has been a reduction in the days to slaughter for lambs meaning reduced fattening costs and allowing him to divert grass to breeding ewes, cutting their overwintering costs.  Performance recording is the only accurate way to breed for better performance. Without it you can’t claim you are breeding for better genetics or perhaps even better sheep.

Top tips for breeding genetically better sheep:-

  • Don’t let any negative traits creep in when looking for better measurable performance.
  • Retain lots of replacement females to allow for rigorous culling on all fronts. I would suggest maximum progress would mean retaining 30 to 40% of you adult flock as ewe lambs.
  • Use top figured tups and plenty of them with diverse genetics to keep diversity in the flock making it easier to avoid inbreeding.