2013-09-04   facebooktwitterrss
More Respect Needed for the Farmer’s Eye

A top ram breeder is calling for a little more respect for the ‘farmer’s eye’ in selecting tups, so that commercial breeders can take a balanced approach towards great opportunities in the lamb trade.

Worcester based ram breeder John Sinnett who won this year’s Interbreed Reserve Champion at the Royal Welsh with a Suffolk yearling ewe says EBVs are only a part of the picture. He is convinced flockmasters still need to rely on their own instincts and judgement honed over years and combine it with the EBV evidence to find the ram they need for their business and their farm.

Suffolk Rams

Mr Sinnett runs a thousand breeding sheep at Stockton on Teme near Worcester, specifically to market top class rams and sells 170 of his annual 250 rams each year at the NSA Wales & Border Ram Sales. His markets include both the Suffolk pedigree and the commercial sector and he has bred a Beltex x Charollais x Texel aimed at improving the specification of carcasses in the abattoir.

He is committed to new technology and has been involved in developing a software company, StockTrace. However while he is urging farmers to use technology more efficiently to better harness the growing opportunities in the lamb trade, he also feels figures can miss some of a ram’s essential attributes.

He warns: “EBVs are only part of a measurement and a lot of it is a mathematical calculation. It excludes to a degree the physical aspects of the whole ram: his structure, correctness of mouth, legs, joints and a whole host of very important aspects.

“EBVs take account of prolificacy, growth rate, eye muscle and fat depth. A lot of it doesn’t take into account the overall correctness of the sheep on offer, nor his ability to last.

“You can have a sheep that will grow very fast but that doesn’t last because these figures are only calculated up to the first twenty weeks of life and not over four or five years. He has to be correct and he has to suit the conditions on the buyer’s farm and his or her commercial vision.”

Mr Sinnett is confident that the lamb business is as good as it’s ever been, with demand increasing and sheep numbers reducing worldwide. The signs are all good and farmers should increase production and target their markets accordingly.

He added: “One person can look after a lot of sheep, especially if they use the right technology and are efficient. The signs are all very good, but it’s my understanding that only 56% of lambs that go to the abattoir meet the supermarket specification.

“You have to be commercial. You have to meet all the market requirements for this job. It isn’t a game or a hobby.

“The youngsters in the industry will increasingly use technology to take the industry forward. The resistance to EID was in my view quite wrong.

“We performance record our pedigree sheep so that we know exactly how each one is performing. Modern technology has made the modern shepherd’s life much easier, because you have all the information and that helps you to become more efficient.”

Mr Sinnett has 450 breeding ewes and takes seventy pedigree Suffolk rams and a hundred cross bred rams to the NSA Wales & Border Ram Sales September event at the Royal Welsh Showground. He says he gets a good price with the minimum fuss at a sale that is recognised throughout the UK and beyond for the quality of rams, all inspected on site.

He said: “It’s a wide range – you sell some at £1,000 and some at £400 but last year I averaged £700 for my pedigree Suffolk rams and £600 for the cross breds. The idea is to get them all sold and get the business done in the one day, one big day, and that reduces costs, including haulage.

“You get a good range of buyers from all over the country. They know that the standards at Builth are very high and that the buyers come there knowing that and expecting that.

“They take comfort from the fact that the sheep are good quality and that they are all inspected before the sale. Buyers like to know that the teeth are inspected.” Mr Sinnett added that the Beltex crossbred rams have been bred to make the most of the benefits of all three breeds. The best genetics have been brought together to breed the right sheep for the commercial market.

He is though still a great believer in the benefits of the Suffolk breed and has kept them since the early 1970s. He says they grow fast and tick all the supermarket criteria boxes and have greatly improved over the last ten to fifteen years.

Related Links
link Role of Sheep in Shaping Our Landscapes
link Beltex and Dunbia Renew Lamb Export Scheme Offer
link Lleyn Sheep Society Exeter Sale Report 2013
link Sheep Breeders

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