Team and Leader A.Carson
Organisations Involved Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland, Agricultural Economics Division, Newforge Lane and Scottish Agricultural College.
Background and Summary
Stratified crossbreeding programmes are a key feature of the Northern Ireland sheep industry. In this, hill breed ewes are mated with crossing sires producing breeding ewe replacements for the lowland sector. Thus, changes in the genetics of the ewes and rams are likely to have major implications for the performance of lowland breeding ewes.
An ARINI on-farm study is investigating the effect of ewe and ram breed on lamb output and carcass quality in the hill sheep flock. This will identify superior hill breeds and strains. However, it is crucial that information is also provided on ewe productivity of these F1 crossbred females for lowland producers to base replacement policies on.
The aims of this programme have been to investigate the effect of breed of dam and crossing sire on the performance of F1 offspring in terms of:
1. Ewe prolificacy, lamb viability and growth rate
2. Carcass conformation, linear fat measurements and carcass tissue composition
3. Animal welfare parameters including dystocia and lamb mortality
A main feature of this trial is that it will be carried out with the assistance of four co-operating lowland producers. This will allow the performance of the crossbred ewes to be assessed under a range of management regimes. Suffolk and Texel sires are to be used equally over all ewe breed types. High merit animals (high EBV) are to be assessed against representative samples of the breeds from the Northern Ireland industry.
1. Lowland sector - identify means of increasing lamb output and carcass quality through ewe and ram selection
2. Hill sector - help create demand from the lowland sector for replacements of superior carcass quality
3. Improving lamb carcass quality from both sectors will increase the competitiveness of the whole industry