Enthusiastic Audience At Performance Recording Workshop

This was a busy, informative and enjoyable day for the 40 breeders who travelled to Stratford Auction market to take part.  We were lucky to have been joined by no less than 4 members of the Signet team:- Sam Boon Manager,  Stephen West and Emma Steele Specialist Breeding Advisors and Stuart Frizell arecently appointed Signet Technician.

 The day started with 4 presentations by Sam and Stephen. (If you missed the workshop or want refreshers– don’t worry the power point slides will be made available on the Signet website soon and more in depth summaries will be provided in future newsletters). Stephen kicked off by explaining how performance recording works and looking at the massive strides the breed has made over the last 15 years. He then went on to discuss inbreeding and its effects on performance.  His final presentation explained how breeders can look at the implications of proposed matings using the inbreeding calculator on Basco. He stressed that good, accurate data provided on time is important for the success of the analysis and asked especially for breeders to supply shearling ewe weights as this data is vital for accurate mature size EBV’s and breeders aren’t very good at providing it at present (red faces all round!). 

Sam Boon started by looking at CT scanning and how it improves the accuracy of performance recording. CT scanning provides predictions of lean meat yield that are >90% accurate compared with on farm scanning which is 70% accurate. The unit at Edinburgh have purchased a new mobile scanner and it is hoped that this will allow easier access for CT scanning for a larger number of breeders.  Sam went onto update the audience about AHDB’s Ram compare project. This is now entering the second tupping season with most of the slaughter data available from last year’s lamb crop. The 3 farmers who have been using Hamps have been pleased with their results and one ram known as ’Tufty’ even appears regularly on twitter. No results will be published for the trial until 2017 but with a few exceptions the rams are performing as would have been predicted from their EBV’s. 

In his ‘now and the future’ presentation, Sam looked at possible changes to the analysis and new EBVs that are likely to become available in the near future. 

 Recent work has suggested that correcting muscle depth and fat depth values for weight rather than age will provide more accurate EBV’s. Other trials have also found that scanning lambs earlier than 20 weeks can give equally accurate results provided the lambs are at least 30-40kgs. 

 Additionally, Signet are aiming to produce a combined breed evaluation in 2018 to provide EBV’s and indices that will be comparable across several breeds. This will have implications for breeders in that some of the calculations used to produce our final index may be altered slightly so that all the terminal sire breed indices are calculated in the same way.  All these changes will inevitably mean some re ranking of individuals within the breed and breeders should be prepared for some alterations in individual animal’s EBV’s and Indices in the next 2-3 years.

 Signet are also working on EBV’s for spine length based on CT results and lambing ease and birthweight. It was great to see that the vast majority of Hamps are born with little or no assistance.

 The morning finished with aQ and A session covering sire reference schemes, the challenges of providing EBVs for killing out %, feed conversion rate, lameness and daggyness.

 During lunch Stephen and Sam discussed individual flocks with breeders looking at their average EBVs For individual traits and where they sat within the breed. This was an interesting benchmarking exercise. After a delicious lunch, there were 2 practical sessions using the ramlambs kindly brought a long by breeders. Sam and Stephen demonstrated back fat scanning and discussed how to use EBV’s in ram selection. Judith Lee our tame vet demonstrated how to do basic fertility examination of rams, looked at common reasons for infertility and discussed the disease risks of bringing animals into your flock.

We would like to thank everyone who was involved in making the day possible especially the team from Signet, the breeders who brought rams and the attendees who travelled from 4 countries!!