2013-06-21   facebooktwitterrss
Hampshire Downs Genetic Progress Steps Up Efficiency

Hampshire Down rams are producing higher value faster finishing lambs which require less grazed grass and hence make considerable cost savings.

The trend reflects the fact that breeders are making more use of performance recorded sires, as well as continuing to select carefully for performance traits recorded by the Signet Sire Reference Scheme (SRS), according to Signet’s breeding specialist, Shane Conway.

Hampshire Down Rams

Hampshire Down Rams

“Rates of genetic gain across the breed have increased considerably together with financial benefits from the lambs’ genetic potential to enhance growth rates (see table 1). These rates are even higher in performance recorded flocks which are pro-actively selecting sires on the basis of their performance figures.

Table 1: Hampshire Down genetic improvement
Rate of genetic gain
(Five year average)
Eight week weight EBV
(grams/year)
Scan weight EBV
(grams/year)

2000-2005

80

140

2005-2010

130

220

2007-2012

140

250

Source: Signet

“The financial benefits vary from farm to farm however the average performance recorded Hampshire Down ram born in 2012 now has the estimated breeding potential to produce commercial progeny that will kill out up to an extra £4 per lamb at slaughter than those animals born in 2007.

“The increase in rates of gain can be attributed to a number of factors – the increased use of high EBV sires, an increase in the number of flocks pro-actively weight recording and the use of new technologies such as CT scanning. The lambs born this year will be the future stock sires for the breed – so this bodes extremely well for the future,” says Mr Conway.

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 as full recording. Higher performing Hampshire Down cross lambs achieve target finishing weight even more quickly.

“In fact the difference between a set of Hampshire Down cross twin lambs finished at 12 weeks and the tail end of the crop at 30 weeks is approximately 290kgs DM, a significant volume worth £23.18 – EBLEX figures based on ewes bearing twin lambs requiring 2.8kg grass DM per day. In addition, early finishing frees up grassland for the remaining ewes and lambs, while other parts of the farm can be rested.

“Furthermore, 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. The Hampshire Down is one of the longest running performance recorded breeds, with records dating back to 1970. Today approximately 60,000 Hampshire Downs are performance recorded, with between 3,000 and 4,000 lambs included in the evaluation each year. At the same time, breeders are ensuring they retain the Hampshire Down’s native characteristics, its hardiness, longevity and its ability to leave lively lambs.

Hampshire Down Sheep


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