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Stackyard News Aug 06

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Hampshire Downs leads SRS Scheme

Hampshire Down sheep breeders are taking the lead over all other breeds recorded by Signet Sire Reference Schemes (SRS). “In 2006, 45% of the Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders’ Association’s lamb registrations were SRS recorded, the highest volume of any breed association or society and a figure that has increase by 100% on the last two years,” according to Signet’s Maurice Jones. “In addition, these breeders demonstrated their commitment to progress by forwarding 46 Hampshire Down rams for Computer Tomography (CT) scanning, the highest number proportionate to the whole breed among all breeds this season.”

Chris Westlake, of Cadeleigh, Tiverton bred the top ram judged on conformation on the Signet SRS 2006.
Chris Westlake, of Cadeleigh, Tiverton bred the top ram judged on conformation on the Signet SRS 2006

Furthermore, Signet SRS combined with whole body CT scanning, the two modern approaches to sheep breeding, are helping the Hampshire Down Sire Reference Breeding Group to identify quality high index ram lambs, of which the top 10% will confer superior growth rate and muscling. To an average early lambing flock of 240 ewes, that can be easily worth £1,500 to £2,000 over and above their average counterparts.

“The average Scheme Index for the group has moved up during the last 24 months from 156 points to 177 points a trend which reflects the permanent and cumulative effects of genetic progress,” says Mr Jones. “Scan weight EBV for growth has improved by 0.69kg, muscle EBV for lean meat content has also improved substantially, while fat levels have reduced slightly.”

“The top 10% of recorded Hampshire Down lambs truly reflects how the group has progressed since its formation in 1998. Scan weight EBV at around 18/19 weeks of age has improved to 5.27kg above the average at the start of the Scheme, while muscle depth EBV has increased by 2.13 mm. At the same time backfat EBV has been reduced by -0.54 mm,” says Mr Jones.

“Compared with rams with an average Scheme Index of 177, those in the top 10% with a Scheme Index of 244 or more will leave progeny from an early finishing flock worth an additional £6 to £7 per lamb, a huge potential extra profit over four years, a Hampshire Down’s expected minimum working lifetime,” he says “These improvements will enable early lamb commercial producers to either achieve target weight up to two weeks earlier or add up to 2.5kg to a commercial lamb’s sale weight and ensure it remains within the target carcase specification. Later lambing flocks, grass finishing can also expect to see financial gains of £2 to £3 per lamb”.

HDSBA Signet and breed development chair, Jennifer Atkinson comments: “These trends reflect the increasing commitment between breeders and the association to promote the use of SRS Scheme and the intelligent use of EBVs to improve key commercial traits and position the breed among the leading terminal sires.” She adds: “High genetic merit Hampshire Down rams, which were in fact among the breed champions at the two Royal shows this season, also have excellent conformation, and will deliver progeny that are not only fast maturing, but are well muscled; the type of lamb that meets with current market and consumer requirements.”

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