Hampshire Down’s perform well in RamCompare research

RamCompare Update – December 2019
With 18,500 lambs recorded over four years, RamCompare is one of the UK’s largest and most high profile sheep research projects.
Established to find the most profitable terminal sires for UK lamb production, data is collected on nine partner farms – with a series of on-farm events explaining the role of genetics in ram selection delivered across the UK this summer.

Each year we receive over 200 ram nominations from which we select a team of 65-70 new sires. The project has now tested 276 rams from 11 breeds, to date 38 different Hampshire Down sires have been used across five seasons with close to 3,000 lambs produced so far. Progeny are assessed throughout their life, with abattoir data used to generate estimated breeding values (EBVs) for carcase weight, conformation, fat class and most recently, days to slaughter.

Commercial terminal sire crossbred lambs at Hutt’s Farm, August 2018 

Monthly updates
Signet’s Terminal Sire Evaluations are now completed on a monthly basis, with RamCompare data relating to lamb growth rate and ultrasound scanning feeding directly into the analysis, updating the EBVs of selected rams and their relatives.
Abattoir traits
EBVs for abattoir-derived traits are updated annually, with tables showing the leading breeding lines available at the start of the ram selling season. The latest results can be found at http://www.ramcompare.com Abattoir activity remains a vital part of our data collection and is improving our understanding of the relationship between measurements taken on the live animal (eight-week weight, scan weight, ultrasound muscle and fat depth) and those collected when lambs are slaughtered, the traits on which farmers are paid.
Each year, 12 lambs are selected from each progeny group to assess primal yield and tenderness. The EBVs generated from this data highlight our ability to change the yield of meat within the carcase and our ability to enhance tenderness.
Highlights for the Hampshire Down breed
Over the duration of the project 2,896 Hampshire Down sired lambs have been recorded from 25 sires:
• Hampshire Downs feature very strongly in the new primal yield EBVs revealed with the results published last Spring, this showed overall quality in the Hampshire Breed for their excellent loins with eight of the top ten placed rams for Middle Primal Yield EBV were Hampshire Downs featuring rams from the Court, Graylen, Kelsey, Benniworth and Yarcombe flocks
• In 2016, semen was kindly gifted to the project from Mike Adams’ Court Hampshire Down flock, one of his rams, Court Contender maintains second place overall for his Carcase Weight EBV in the combined years’ result
• This success is closely followed by Court General also with an impressive Carcase Weight EBV, a linkage AI sire used in the second year, nominated by Simon Williams of the Benniworth flock

Court General AI sire provided by Simon Williams

• In 2018 we placed 14 new Hampshire Down rams across the nine farms, resulting in 1,337 progeny being born this year, one Normanby sire producing 181 lambs! We are keen to see the results next spring to see how these rams have performed
• This season we have welcomed new flocks into the project including Chaddlehanger, Maes Glas, Morley and Appledown; progeny will arrive next season from thirteen new sires

RamCompare lambs at Thistleyhaugh Farm – eight – weeks weights 

What have we learnt and what do we want to know?
The project has done a great job of enhancing our understanding of traits measured on farm and at the abattoir, highlighting which on-farm traits are good indicators of value to the commercial producer and which carcase attributes may be better assessed directly using CT scanning or abattoir data.
The project clearly shows the variation seen in the value of sires. Extra value worth £3-£5/lamb – or £600-£800/sire is commonly seen on farms, with the overall RamCompare breeding index doing a great job in highlighting the highest value animals.
RamCompare extension for a further five years
We are hopeful levy funding will enable the project to continue for a further five years. This will widen the project to use abattoir data from a greater range of sources and develop our ability to highlight the most valuable rams, based on a combined understanding of their on-farm performance, CT measurements and commercial progeny performance. Please support us with your ram nominations for both natural service sires and artificial insemination sires in the New Year.

For more information please go to www.ramcompare.com

Bridget Lloyd – On behalf of the RamCompare team

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