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Hampshire Down’s Genetic Progress Benefits Commercial Producers 02/09/08

An increasing number of Hampshire Down sheep breeders are taking up Signet SRS performance recording and subsequently improving the breed’s commercial productivity, according to Signet’s manager Sam Boon.

Hampshire Down sheep

“Increasing numbers of breeders have carefully selected stock rams, using EBVs, that are structurally sound and of superior genetic merit. This has resulted in an average Hampshire Down lamb now having the breeding potential to weigh almost 2kg heavier at scanning time than one bred 10 years ago, while muscle depth has improved by 0.65mm,” he says. “Leading Hampshire Down flocks are making even faster rates of genetic progress, according to the latest published trends. Signet data indicates a 2008 born Hampshire Down ram within the top 10% of the breed would be worth over £250 more to the commercial producer compared to an average animal born back in 1998."

The significance that breeders are placing on performance records is reflected in the fact over 75% of the UK bred Hampshire Down stock sires in 2007 were performance recorded themselves as lambs, reports Mr Boon. In addition, over 40% of the stock rams that sired pedigree Hampshire Down lambs last year were officially rated within the trait leading top 10% of the breed.

“Furthermore, 51% of the lambs notified to the Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders’ Association (HDSBA) are now weight recorded, an impressive achievement within a terminal sire breed of this size,” he comments “The trend bodes well for the future and in part explains the prestigious genetic gains achieved within recent years.”

HDSBA secretary, Richard Davis comments: “These gains are impressive considering the dramatic increase in the number of lambs notified to the Association and evaluated by Signet, up 20% on the year. That figure reflects members’ genuine commitment to becoming more actively involved in performance recording and in particular, taking up Signet’s newly introduced Whole Breed Analysis approach which is enabling them to place even greater emphasis on selection for early growth rates within the breed by recording eight week weights.”

He adds: “Higher volumes of performance recorded lambs will increase the accuracy of the evaluations and in turn, enable even faster rates of improvement within the breed. At the same time, breeders are also ensuring they retain the Hampshire Down’s native characteristics, its hardiness, longevity and its ability to leave lively lambs.”

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Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders’ Association