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centurion groupThis year marks the 25th anniversary of the formation of the first UK Sire Reference Schemes and the principle of breeders benefiting from working together is as important today as it was in 1990.

Few breeding groups demonstrate better the principles of working together than the long established Centurion Poll Dorset Breeders Group; group members have dominated the marketing and breeding of Dorset sheep over the last two decades.

Why has the group been successful?

“People, rather than sheep are the most important aspect of forming a successful breeding group.” says Jim Dufosee, Chairman of Centurion.  “Trust is important, as breeders are relying on group members to protect the health status of their flocks, genetic merit of their lambs and the integrity of our marketing brand. Any breeding group is only as strong as their weakest members, but this is a positive thing, as it means that through group membership everyone has to raise their game – and they do.” says Jim

“It is also important that group members can talk openly, not just with each other – but also with Signet staff and other invited industry experts. End of season meetings to share ideas about genetics, nutrition, health and marketing all add value to group membership and enable the valuable knowledge that exists within the group to be shared between group members.“

What are the advantages of a breeding group?

The original reason for creating breeding groups, like Sire Reference Schemes, was to develop genetic linkage between flocks to enable genetic analyses to take into account differences in flock management when predicting genetic merit.

The across flock analyses that followed enabled selection decisions to move from picking the best within a flock – to selecting right across the whole recorded population. Breeders were effectively able to pick elite animals out of thousands of potential candidates.

Using well recorded rams and their sons across different flocks strengthens the genetic analysis and enables lower ranking flocks to make faster rates of genetic improvement.

Breeding groups are also pivotal for driving change, with the Centurion group taking an active role in the formulation of a new maternal breeding index launched 12 months ago. “This wouldn’t have been possible without informed discussion and input from group members.” says Samuel Boon, AHDB Beef and Lamb Breeding Specialist.

Samuel Boon, AHDB Beef and Lamb Breeding Specialist notes the genetic gain achieved within the breed “The average Dorset Scan Weight EBV has increased by over 2.5kg across the whole population – with similar impressive increases in traits like milking ability and muscling across the loin”.

Jim explains “The Dorset breed’s role in the UK as both a terminal sire and a maternal breed, capable of breeding out of season is unique and makes the selection of breeding stock a complex process, but by working together, sharing information and making informed breeding decisions across a wide population we have been able to take our flocks forward at a rate simply not possible if we were working as individuals.”

The Centurion group welcomes new members. For more information contact Graham Langford

Tel: 01823680086    Email: [email protected]