The RamCompare project is a two-year pilot project designed to trial strategies for capturing commercial data on slaughter lambs in the UK sheep industry. It will be similar to central progeny tests that are taking place in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.
The first stage of the project involves 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 sheep industry the sire of slaughter lambs is not usually known, 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 the project in 2017.
The project team has developed a Handbook of Procedures for RamCompare, which details the protocols that are being followed. The handbook is available on request from [email protected].