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Stackyard News Apr 08

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Sea Change in Commercial Lamb Production

The results of the first UK trials comparing the performance of pure New Zealand and UK terminal sires when used on a lowland flock will be revealed at an open day on Tuesday, April 29.

The open day emphasises the importance of easicare systems and reduction in labour inputs for today’s commercial sheep farmers.

Sea change in commercial lamb production

The independent trials, which started last September are being run by the Institute of Rural Science (IRS Aberystwyth University) at Morfa Mawr Farm, Llanon, and involve 500 Welsh Mule ewes that have been mated to pure New Zealand, traditional UK and high index UK Suffolk sires.

During the trials a full economic analysis of the different sire groups is being carried out - initially including benchmarking lambing ease, lamb vigour and survivability, and birth weights. Management traits will also be captured including footrot incidence, faecal worm count and dagginess; together with growth measurements at eight weeks, weaning and slaughter. Finally a detailed analysis of carcase weights, grades etc will be analysed so that the full economic affects of using the different types of rams will be fully assessed.

Jointly funded by Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales, Innovis and the Suffolk Sheep Society, the open day will release the first phase results.

Dr Janet Roden, of the IRS explains: “The ewes were AI’d to ensure compact lambing and have then been run randomly as mixed mobs. We lambed in early February and ewes and lambs were turned out within 24 hours of birth. Detailed measurements were taken including lambing assistance required, lambs speed to suckle, birth weights and mortality.

“At the open day we will have the first set of data relating to important functional traits within the lambs’ first 12 weeks of life which relate to today’s drive for easicare and minimising labour inputs. Visitors will also be able to see lamb growth and conformation at 12 weeks. Further data will be collected and results will be published throughout the summer.”

Stephen Cobbald, chairman of the Suffolk Sheep Society said: “The Suffolk Society recognises that our customers need to be able to run profitable businesses when the sheep industry is facing many challenges from both increasing costs and disease pressures. This trial will provide much useful information to all commercial sheep farmers when they are considering the future direction for their businesses.”

The open day commences at 1.30pm at Morfa Mawr Farm, Llanon, Ceredigion SY23 5LY located on the coast road (A487) twelve miles south of Aberystwyth. More information visit

Discussions will focus on :

  • A comparison of the performance of NZ Suffolks na dUK Suffolks in a Welsh lowland environment
  • Welcome and introduction Prof Will Haresign and Charles Harding
  • Project overview and lambing results Dr Janet Roden
  • Discussion of other IRS sheep breeding research including experience with the MyoMax gene.
  • To include a farm walk at Morfa Mawr to see ewes with Suffolk lambs at foot.

Please help to ensure high biosecurity levels by wearing clean clothes and footwear.

link English Lambs Improve in Carcase Quality
link Blackface Sheep Breeders Association Spring Show 2008
link All Change at Suffolk Sheep Society AGM

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Suffolk Sheep Society