The village of Lenham in Kent is home to the Pivington flock of pedigree Romney sheep. Founded in 1902 and first registered pedigree in 1947, this makes the flock one of the oldest in the country and has been producing the highest quality breeding rams and ewes for decades.
The Barr family have run a mixed farming enterprise in Lenham since 1902 with Alan Barr managing the 500 pedigree Romney ewes along with the Chapel herd of 50 pedigree Sussex cattle that are also performance recorded with Signet.
Alan strives to produce quality stock for replacements that look good, but also perform efficiently with strong mothering traits and retain the ability to produce lambs with a good carcass size and length. With this in mind, Alan took the decision to start performance recording his Romney flock with Signet 5 years ago after taking the decision that the Romney breed needed to continue to move with the times and if the flock was to increase their rate of genetic improvement along with the rest of the industry, they needed to make use of the services Signet provides.
Performance recording has allowed Alan to select his replacement stock not only on visual appearance and farm records but also from calculated indexes and EBVs that predict the breeding potential of each recorded individual in the flock. He pays particular attention to traits that will enhance the maternal characteristics of his flock such as maternal ability, eight week weight and litter size EBVs to help influence the number of lambs he successfully rears. Alan also uses the ultrasound scanning service provided by signet to improve the conformation of his sheep.
Using this extra tool, Alan has been able to improve his sheep year on year, producing stock for his own replacements and recorded rams and females for private sale, with the Pivington flock currently holding the Romney record with the sale of a ram at Ashford Market.
Since Alan started recording, he has seen major improvements to his sheep. In the last 5 years he has improved his scan weight EBVs by 0.77kg indicating his lambs are now growing quicker than ever before, his muscle depth EBV has risen and his average index by over 30 points.
The Barr family have also been key players in advocating the use of Signet services throughout Romney breeders leading to much greater cooperation, with 6 flocks now actively recording. This meant that in 2015, Romneys got their first ever across flock evaluation due to improved genetic linkage between recorded flocks allowing them to compare sheep between flocks for the first ever time.
Alan’s key breeding objectives focus on producing fantastic examples of an improving Romney breed that are low management, lambing outdoors with minimal assistance and thriving on grass, with only the best rams being fed when grass gets sparse in November.
Alan’s top breeding tips are:
- To always breed from the best you can afford – good genetics will have a long term, continuous effect on your flock affecting stock for years to come.
- Don’t buy or select stock on looks alone – they can be deceptive and selecting breeding stock solely on looks is a risky game to play. Striking a balance is key, selecting good recorded stock with the aesthetic characteristics that you look for will reduce the risk involved in making breeding decisions, improving the rate of genetic improvement within the flock.
- Only ever sell stock that you would be happy to retain yourself. Reputation is key and if you’re selling stock that you know is not up to standard, your buyer will find out, repeat custom will be unlikely and your reputation will be damaged within the industry hindering future sales.
Signet believes Romney sheep have an exciting future ahead of them due to improved cooperation of breeders like Alan and increasing numbers within the breed. We look forward to seeing their continued improvements into the future.
For more information about Signet or to start performance recording your flock please contact Emma Steele. Email: [email protected]