The St Paul flock, owned by David and Denise Middleditch of Belchamp St Paul, Suffolk, but run by their son Harry, has been recognised by AHDB Beef and Lamb as the Most Improved Flock of Hampshire Down sheep in England for 2014.
The flock was established in 2003 to utilise the 50 acres of permanent pasture on the farm and in 2005 they started performance recording with Signet, initially just submitting weights. The next year however they incorporated ultrasound scanning into the recording process, in order to benefit from more informed data about the genetic potential for muscling and fat within the flock.
Using performance recording to progress the flock and encourage sales
Through the BASCO website, the Middleditches access genetic information on particular animals, including EBVs for scan weight and muscle depth which are particularly important when selling terminal sires.
At sales, performance data is provided to back up the appearance of an animal, showing its genetic merit for growth and carcase attributes. From their experience, it is hard to sell a ram through Carlisle unless he has figures supporting him.
“Watching trends in the market place and studying the data received from Signet helps us to monitor progress and identify individuals that are excelling as well as those who may be falling behind,” Harry said. Whether potential buyers are interested or not, Harry is always explaining the figures behind an animal, in attempt to encourage the enthusiasm he sees in the North for recorded animals with superior breeding traits behind them.
Since Harry has been performance recording he has seen a shift in the overall index, which has increased from 150 to around 300 today. He is convinced that such improvement has developed from monitoring growth rates and selecting stock with superior EBVs.