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Performance Recording is paying off for Essie Suffolks

The Essie flock was established in 1981. It is run as a closed flock of 100 ewes, with lambs and shearlings being raised on a grass-based system. The flock has been actively involved in performance recording, with the majority of its sheep sitting comfortably within the top 25 per cent of the breed.

Performance recording is at the heart of the Essie breeding strategy. Flock owner, Irene Fowlie, carefully selects animals with superior growth and conformation traits. These improvements have lead to major increases in growth rates and as a result Essie customers are benefiting from a reduction in days to slaughter, increased carcase weights and improvements in carcase classification.

The Essie flock uses Computed Tomography (CT) scanning technology to identify elite breeding lines, as well as increasing the accuracy of the Estimated Breeding Values (EBVS) produced within Signet’s evaluations. The CT scanner measures the total amount of muscle, fat and bone within the carcase of the live animal. It also provides an assessment of gigot muscularity, providing further improvements in carcase shape. The Essie flock prides itself on presenting naturally fleshy, long shearlings and the use of EBVs has been an important tool in achieving this aim.

The national genetic evaluation service for cattle and sheep

CT Images of H6:12:045 showing muscling across the loin and gigot

CT Images of H6:12:045 showing muscling across the loin and gigot

Over the last five years the Essie flock has made high rates of genetic gain, moving from an average index of £1.62 in 2007, to £4.23 in 2012 lambs. This year the Essie flock has bred or owns six of the top 10 Suffolk stock rams in the country.

scan_weight_ebv. muscle_depth_ebv

In 2011 the Essie flock produced the top recorded ram lamb in the country with a terminal index of £6.02. In 2012 the flock followed up this success and again produced the top recorded ram lamb in the country – H6:12:045 (pictured below) which has a terminal index of £6.98, a breed record. This lamb has a scan weight EBV of 18.11kg, which demonstrates the success achieved in increasing growth rates through selective breeding.

ram - Essie Suffolk

Essie Suffolks have also bred the second highest recorded lamb H6:12:062 (Index £6.89). His sister H6:12:063 (Index 6.54) is the highest indexed ewe lamb (pictured below).

ewe

Essie Suffolks have an impressive set of EBVs behind them to guarantee a high level of performance in commercial flocks. The lambs are performance recorded on a grass-based system and out-wintered. This ensures that they are fit for purpose when exposed to commercial management and have a long working life.

Irene concentrates on producing high index shearling rams for commercial and pedigree flocks which sell at the September Kelso ram sales and at Dingwall. Irene welcomes visitors to the farm. More information is available by visiting www.essiesuffolks.co.uk or on Facebook.

Note – written by Lucy Jackson, based on a conversation with Irene Fowlie. Edited by Shane Conway – Signet

Performance Recording is paying off for Essie Suffolks