Recently released fourth-year results from the AgriSearch co-funded RamCompare project reveal how sires with key breeding traits can drive productivity and optimal new sire purchases.
RamCompare is a five-year project that takes nominated performance-recorded rams from various terminal sire breeds and uses them on nine commercial farms in the UK. One of the nine farms participating in the study is AFBI Hillsborough, part of a larger Northern Ireland RamCompare sister project led by AgriSearch and involving AFBI, Dunbia, AHDB and Sheep Ireland. The joint-levy project is one of the largest trials of its kind and has recorded the performance of 19,000 lambs sired by 211 rams through artificial insemination (AI) and natural mating, over four breeding seasons. It clearly demonstrates how commercial producers can use specific estimated breeding values (EBVs) to identify rams with a high genetic potential and prove their worth when assessing financial impact.
AgriSearch Sheep Advisory Board Chairman, Edward Adamson highlighted the unique nature of the RamCompare project. “The RamCompare results are obtained from data produced on real farms. This is crucial to ensure no doubt remains regarding the reliability and relevance of EBVs. They are an excellent guide to assess the ability of a ram to pass on positive traits."
The latest results show a great spread of rams among the most recent lists of trait leaders. Signet Breeding Manager, Sam Boon, urges breeders to focus on those traits that deliver the greatest profit to their system, and source recorded rams with the right EBVs to deliver them. “Few rams can do it all; some will excel for carcase conformation, others for speed of finish, producers should evaluate their system and determine which sires have the potential to make the biggest financial impact.”
Among the leading sires for the 2019 lamb crop, a Meatlinc (HRF:09012) bred by George Fell tops the rankings for Scan Weight EBV (speed of growth) and comes second for Days to Slaughter EBV – where he is pipped to take the top spot by a Hampshire Down (27Z1700622) bred by C M Brant and Son. In terms of overall Carcase Merit Index, the top sire is Grey Peel Lear Jet HMF05019, a Texel bred by Maurice Hardy-Bishop. Top ram for Carcase Conformation EBV is a Blue Texel (08441:24891), bred by Jan Rodenburg.
Within the project, carcases are dissected to assess primal yields at a fixed weight, a Southdown (883:170545) from Rob Beaumont and a SuffTex (UK 0 304652 06765) from Robyn and Nick Hulme, provided the greatest weight of meat in the middle (loin) and haunch sections respectively.
Once again, a Charollais ram topped the list for Shearforce EBV, a breeding value indicating meat tenderness. This year, the top sire was Crogham Lambert (11AB00035) bred by Crogham Charollais and provided to the project by the Ingram family.
With seven different breeds topping at least one of the RamCompare leader tables, the UK sheep industry shows extensive range and genetic variation and a wealth of opportunities. Ultimately, decisions on commercial farms should reflect the profitability of each trait to the enterprise – and this varies with production system and end market. RamCompare clearly shows the benefit of EBV based ram selection to enhance those traits on which producers are paid.
Buyers can access the RamCompare data online to see a ram’s genetic ranking for specific traits such as carcase attributes or growth rate. Signet recorded stock can be found at www.signetdata.com, which provides lists of sheep for sale, as well as “Flock Finder” which indicates performance recorded flocks located nearby.