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Stackyard News Feb 06

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Making the Grade with Lambs

BETTER communication in the lamb supply chain can help producers make better breeding decisions, increase the proportion of lambs meeting market requirements and improve flock profitability.

photo courtesy of

beltex lambs

These are the findings of a two-year DEFRA-funded project, supported by the Meat and Livestock Commission, the Suffolk, Texel and Charollais Sheep Societies, Rose County Foods Ltd and J S Sainsbury Plc.

Farm trials have shown the use of recorded rams with superior breeding potential can increase the profitability of commercial flocks by as much as £3 per lamb.

To achieve this, producers must understand their own breeding goal to select the right ram for their system using Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs). This process can be greatly enhanced by analysing the data returned to them by their abattoir.

By evaluating carcase data, producers can make immediate adjustments to management and long-term decisions with regard to breeding that will yield greater financial returns, as well as improving the quality of lamb presented to the consumer.

This process can be made easier if processors make changes to the way carcase data is reported back to producers - even simple changes can considerably improve their value as a flock management tool. These include identification of carcase data for individual animals, electronic copies of results, reports on batch variation and reports ranking flock performance against other producers.

Samuel Boon from MLC's Signet Breeding Services, said: "The project has demonstrated that UK sheep breeding programmes are generating breeding stock whose offspring meet the needs of commercial sheep producers and the wider lamb supply chain."

Stan Ayrton, Procurement Manager at Rose County Foods Ltd, said: "The value of using recorded sires has been a revelation. I admit to being sceptical about this at the start of the trial, along with one or two of the farmers that were trialling the tups, but like them I believe the proof of the pudding is in the eating and producers should take the opportunity of buying recorded rams wherever they can".

For further details contact Samuel Boon, MLC's Signet Breeding Services on 01908 844207 or email: <>.

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