Founder members of Charollais Sires, Jonathan and Carroll have seen great changes since Charollais sheep were first imported in the 1970s. They started performance recording almost immediately.
The breed was competing against established terminal sires and needed to grow faster, whilst maintaining carcase conformation. The average Charollais lamb in the recorded breed is now more heavily muscled at scanning time, with the genetic potential to be over 7.50kg heavier.
At Crogham, 56-day weights have increased nearly 6kg/lamb over 26 years, meaning they are 27% heavier! At scanning, this 6kg/lamb increase remains, despite lambs being scanned three weeks earlier than in the past.
Success brings its own challenges, as it inevitably means that breeding objectives have to change. Several times in the breed’s history, index weightings have been changed to help breeders optimise the balance of muscle and fat within the carcase – in particular the introduction of CT scanning data in 2000 and a new Charollais index in 2015.
It is often said the perfect ram is bought ‘in bits’, with some possessing strong show type, others having superior growth rates and some excellent carcase conformation. The challenge for breeders is to develop balanced sheep that take all of these requirements into account.
In the Crogham flock a legacy was left by Crogham Centurion, one of the first reference rams and arguably one of the most influential recorded sheep in the breed – with tremendous muscling across the loin. Stock rams that followed have tended to be well muscled, but possess faster growth rates, with fatter sires put to leaner ewes and visa versa, to take the whole flock forward.
Whilst different rams will suit different systems, most producers require a balanced animal which is well muscled and fast growing. Decisions based on EBVs have enabled the Crogham flock to take forward both these attributes, whilst still producing stylish sheep for pedigree breeders who wish to show.
Producing good all-round sheep enables the Barbers to appeal to the broadest range of customers, whilst producing a level flock of lambs to be admired at home.
Tips for success
- Produce balanced sheep to appeal to the widest range of customers
- Select sires that excel in areas that will complement the ewe flock
- Eye-catching sheep are still important to buyer and breeder alike
Table 11: A decade of genetic improvement for the Crogham Flock
|Year||lambs|| 8 week weight
| Scan Weight
| Muscle Depth
| Fat Depth
| Terminal Sire