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A new guide designed for commercial sheep farmers who retain home-produced ewe lambs as breed replacements was launched by Quality Meat Scotland’s Scottish Sheep Strategy at Scotsheep today.

The “Guide To Breed Replacement Selection” – known as ELSA – is based on an easy-to-use system for home-produced lambs. While it does not replace the Signet breeding system for pedigree sheep it will help producers maximise the genetics in their flocks rather than relying on “eye” alone.

There are three ELSA system options depending on the type of sheep farming business operated and the ease of access to sheep.

Option one is the simplest and involves nothing more than identifying any ewe, tup or ewe lamb that needs to be treated as an individual rather than with routine group treatment. An example of this could be a sheep which has foot problems.

Option two involves the use of a weigh crate and enables producers to select ewe lambs on the basis of size and performance with the under-performers being sold rather than kept for breeding.

Option three involves a little bit more work. With this option producers need to record the weights throughout the early growth stages of the both male and female lambs to produce a Ewe Efficiency Index.

Scottish Sheep Strategy Manager Rod McKenzie, who devised the system, said: “This approach is similar to what has been done with the Sheep Focus Farm Project where we have found that the productivity of some ewes can be double that of their flock mates.

“ELSA is an easy option for hill, upland and lowland farmers to buy High Index recorded tups with the traits they want to incorporate into the genetic base of their breeding replacements. Everyone has something that they want to improve in their flock - such as lamb survivability or carcase weight - and this is the means to achieve that.”

The booklet “A Guide To Breed Replacement Selection For: The Commercial Flock” can be obtained by contacting QMS on 0131 472 4040. It is also available to download by visiting the Scottish Sheep Strategy website at www.scottishsheepstrategy.org.uk Any producers who would like assistance to start recording their commercial flock should contact Rod McKenzie on 01463 811 804.