Performance recording is difficult in isolation. Even the greatest enthusiast of weight recording finds it difficult to work with a small-recorded population, as new rams constantly need testing. Also, the marketing of stock on performance figures is difficult when most breeders have not bought into the concept.
This does not mean the population has to be extensive, but it does mean all breeders need to be involved. The National Genetic Analysis for Hampshire Down sheep is therefore proving very useful, as every pedigree animal is included in the evaluation.
Henry and Hillary Derryman founded the Yarcombe flock in 1970 and have performance recorded for more than 40 years. They have seen major increases in genetic potential for growth rate and muscling, as the Hampshire Down breed has adapted to the needs of the modern, commercial lamb producer. Breeding stock are traded across the UK, with Yarcombe sheep heading to Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Henry is still actively involved in running the flock, but grandson Phillip is also involved, helping with marketing campaigns such as the recent Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders Association (HDSBA) Internet and social media campaign. This has helped to explain the importance of genetic improvement work to an increasingly receptive commercial audience.
The renewal in interest in this breed is in no small part due to the hard work of breeders like Henry and Phillip, working with the Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders Association to encourage breeders to get involved in performance recording. With over seventy Hampshire Down flocks now engaged in recording and over 60% of Hampshire Down lambs sired by a recorded ram, this strategy is working well and taking the breed forward.
Tips for success
- The more breeders that are involved and using EBVs within a breed, the easier it is for everyone
- Encourage breeders to use recorded sires as this means at least 50% of the genes in a population are known
- Spend time communicating the benefits of performance recording. Video and social media are increasingly useful tools
Table 15: A decade of genetic improvement for the Yarcombe Flock
| Scan weight
| Muscle Depth
| Fat Depth
| Terminal Sire