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For immediate release – Monday 30th March, 2015


RamCompare project to boost sheep industry genetic improvement

A major new partnership has been announced which will enable the UK sheep industry to drive genetic improvement forward through the inclusion of commercial data in genetic evaluations.

The RamCompare project, which begins in May, will work along the supply chain to get lamb performance data from farms and abattoirs included in genetic evaluation. The project is a pilot to trial strategies for data capture and will be similar to central progeny tests that are taking place in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.

The two-year pilot project is financed by AHDB Beef and Lamb, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), Quality Meat Scotland and Agrisearch, with support provided by the Sainsbury’s ‘Big Data’ Agriculture R&D Grant Scheme, Randall Parker Foods, Dunbia and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

The first stage of the project will involve developing a network of six commercial farms that will use artificial insemination (AI) and single-sire mating to produce a crop of over 500 lambs per farm per year. In the UK the sire of most slaughter lambs is not known at present, so this approach will enable sire information to be collected.

67 rams from five breeds – Texel, Suffolk, Charollais, Hampshire Down and Meatlinc – will be tested across these flocks over the 2016 and 2017 lambing seasons. The rams will be representative of the top 20 per cent of their breed based on their estimated breeding values (EBVs) and the AI sires will have good linkage with other pedigree flocks.

Data from their lambs will be collected through to slaughter. This data will be evaluated to see whether its inclusion in the rams’ genetic evaluations identifies differences between sires and improves their accuracy. A ranking of the tested rams, based on commercially important traits, will be generated at the end of 2017.

AHDB Beef and Lamb breeding specialist Sam Boon said: “This will be the first time a commercial progeny test has been established in the UK on this scale. It will enable the performance of progeny by different rams to be compared under commercial conditions; therefore it will be an important step in allowing animals to be compared irrespective of breed.

“It is also a truly unique project as it involves partners from right along the supply chain.

“The ambition is that, in time, one genetic analysis will be produced that will encompass data  for all terminal sire breeds.”


Further information will be available at as the project gets underway. You can also follow @RamCompare on Twitter for updates.


Notes to Editors

AHDB Beef and Lamb is the organisation for beef and lamb levy payers in England, and is a division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

It exists to enhance the profitability of the English beef and lamb sector. Its aims are:

  • to help the beef and lamb supply chain to be more efficient
  • to help the beef and lamb meat industry to add value.

For more information please contact Jo Biggs, in the AHDB Beef and Lamb press office, on 024 7647 8836 or via [email protected]

Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is the industry-led organisation responsible for the development, promotion and marketing of Welsh red meat. Working with the whole supply chain – from farmers to retailers – HCC aims to develop the industry as well as profitable markets for Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Welsh Lamb, PGI Welsh Beef and pork from Wales.

Quality Meat Scotland is the public body working to shape a sustainable and prospering Scottish red meat industry. QMS promotes the Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork brands and works to improve the industry’s efficiency and to increase the public’s understanding of livestock farming and the role of beef, lamb and pork in a healthy diet.

AgriSearch (The Northern Ireland Agricultural Research and Development Council) was formed in 1997 to provide a mechanism through which Northern Ireland beef, dairy and sheep farmers could have direct involvement in production orientated research. Funds contributed to AgriSearch are used to commission research into the improvement and development of beef, sheep and dairy farming.

AgriSearch’s guiding principal is to provide practical benefit for primary producers to reduce costs, improve performance, drive innovation and improve welfare.  Duplication of existing R&D work is avoided and every effort is made to get maximum leverage from complementary funding sources.

Founded in 1869, Sainsbury’s today operates over 1,200 stores, employing around 161,000 colleagues across the UK. With 24 million customer transactions every week, the company’s focus is on delivering high quality, affordable food, clothing and general merchandise across supermarkets, convenience stores and online. Sainsbury’s Bank offers accessible financial products that reward customers who both bank and shop with Sainsbury’s. Strong, well-established values are integral to Sainsbury’s success in helping customers Live Well for Less.

Randall Parker Foods is a leading supplier of quality lamb and beef. Our customers choose us for the best quality, provenance and service. We work closely with our farmer suppliers and combine state of the art technology with traditional butchery skills to deliver the best quality and best value products. We supply quality lamb to major high street retailers, local butchers, food service and international markets.

Dunbia is one of Europe’s leading food manufacturers supplying quality meat products for national and international retail, commercial and foodservice markets. Our desire to create better food naturally is the driving force behind everything we do and ensures we maintain a consistent focus on quality, value and success for our customers.

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), leading the way in Agriculture and Rural Research, Education and Consultancy.

Scotland’s Rural College supports innovation and sustainable development in agriculture and the rural sector in Britain and internationally. We are one of the UK’s leading agriculturally-focused higher education institutions, offering a unique blend of research, education and consultancy.

SRUC’s research and education activities operate from six campuses and eight farms and research centres across Scotland. Our consultancy arm, SAC Consulting, supports more than 12,000 farms and rural businesses across the UK from 25 consultancy offices and eight veterinary disease surveillance centres.