Wednesday, 13 April 2016

RamCompare project update

Bridget Lloyd, RamCompare project co-ordinator

It has been a busy few months for our RamCompare farms, as the first breeding season of the project is well underway. Over 2500 lambs have been born so far and the final farm is due to lamb outside in May. It is an exciting time, with eight-week weight visits starting this week, giving us a chance to see the full complement of project lambs born on each farm to date. We are expecting the first lambs to be sent to the abattoir towards the end of May when we will start recording carcase data.

 The aim of RamCompare is to enable the UK sheep industry to drive genetic improvement forward through the inclusion of commercial data in genetic evaluations. The project is being used as a pilot to trial strategies for data capture and will be similar to central progeny tests that are taking place in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. Partners from right along the supply chain are involved and extensive data recording, from birth to slaughter, will be carried out in order to inform genetic evaluations, with performance data being included from farms through to abattoirs.

On 31 March, nominations for natural service rams for the second year of the project closed and we were delighted with the number we received. It shows that pedigree breeders have a keen interest in the project and we are really grateful for the support.

 A total of 237 rams were nominated across the five breeds in the project, which include Hampshire Down, Charollais, Texel, Suffolk and Meatlinc, and we will soon begin the process of selecting the sires to be used in the trial. All the rams nominated have high estimated breeding values, in the top 20% of breed benchmark, and will offer diversity to genetics already on test. Rams will be delivered to the farms during July this year, where they will be put in to quarantine while health and fertility testing takes place, before being released into the flocks for tupping in September.

Natural service ram team at Chawton Park last year
Five new sires have been selected for performance testing in 2017 and will be used by artificial insemination on up to three of the farms. Their use will create genetic links between trial farms and results collected on their progeny will strengthen statistical comparisons between other rams on test and those used for natural mating.
The rams are:

Wedderburn Peleus, 15WNY02086 – Charollais
Stainton Vantage II, WPS1400599 – Texel
Hans Fokker 95, T79:13:095 – Suffolk
Court 12077 General, 73R12077 – Hampshire Down
Thorganby HRF, 04775 – Meatlinc

 Finally, we have a great opportunity for breeders who record with Signet. Frozen semen from three of the sires used for natural service in year one of the project is being offered free of charge to these breeders. The aim is to build genetic linkages between Signet recorded flocks and the RamCompare project. Conditions will apply, for more information email me at
bridget.lloyd@ahdb.org.uk.

If you want to read more about the project and our trial farms take a look at the
website.