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Stackyard News Jul 2010

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Hampshire Downs’ Genetic Progress Offers Commercial Gain

Hampshire Down sheep breeders are demonstrating that accelerated genetic progress for commercial traits recorded by the Signet Sire Reference Scheme (SRS) is both permanent and cumulative, and are subsequently offering rams consistently delivering higher performance lambs, according to Signet’s Sam Boon.

Yarcombe Apollo, a December born ram lamb headed the Hampshire Down Sire Reference Scheme Ram Selection 2010. He had a 2.73mm Muscle EBV, a 9.29kg Scan wt EBV and index 298.2. Bred by the Derryman family, Yarcombe, Honiton, he is by Yarcombe Sovereign who headed the same SRS Selection in 2008 and is out of a homebred ewe from their 110 flock.

Yarcombe Apollo

“The average Hampshire Down lamb now has the breeding potential to be over 2kg heavier at scanning time than those born just six years ago,” he explains. “Added to this, a lamb born in 2010 and within the breed’s top 10% on performance data has the breeding potential to be another 2kg heavier than an average one at scanning time, and thereby increasing the weight of lean meat in the carcase by 0.75kg. This is a massive difference at both farm level, where top 10% sires could be increasing lamb revenues by £4 to £5 per lamb or £2,000 for an average early lambing flock of 300 ewes, and also to the retailer who will obtain carcases with high yields of lean meat.”

Mr Boon attributes these high rates of genetic gain made in recent years due to the progressive attitude of Hampshire Down breeders. “They have selected stock sires within the breed on the basis of their EBVs for commercially important traits, the have put to use CT to find elite sires and introduced widespread progeny testing of lambs.” Almost 70% of stock rams registered in 2009 were from performance recorded flocks.

He adds: “More and more commercial producers are selecting rams using EBVs. The Hampshire Down is in a strong position due to the high proportion of the breed that is involved in performance recording and the ready availability of EBVs for stock on the internet.

“Furthermore, breeding values for Hampshire Downs can be accessed via the Hampshire Down Sheep Society website making it even easier to select the right ram for a given production system. Some commercial buyers will want to place more emphasis on growth traits while others will focus on carcase attributes - the new website enables buyers to source rams in their area, confident that they will perform in a predictable manner with a view to increasing flock profitability.”

HDSBA’s Richard Davis adds: “These gains are impressive and reflect members’ genuine commitment to becoming actively involved in performance recording and taking up both Signet’s Whole Breed Analysis approach as well a full recording. 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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