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Tip-Top Tups: New RamCompare Project farm in Scotland announced

The new Scotland-based RamCompare farm has been named by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) as the project seeks to drive faster rates of genetic improvement in the UK sheep industry.

Saughland Farm, alongside livestock manager Owen Gray, based at Pathhead, Midlothian, will now participate in the programme taking over from Sion Williams and Bowhill Estate who have supported the project since its launch in 2015.

Saughland Farm consists of 50-ha of arable land, 240ha of grassland and 40ha of woodland and hedgerows. Saughland has a maternal composite flock of 1,500 ewes using Romney and Aberfield with everything recorded from birth and 400 ewe lambs. A new pedigree Suffolk flock is being developed with the aim to produce an easy lambing, vigorous flock without compromising carcase quality and growth using CT Scanning, Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) and rigorous selection.

Owen is looking forward to seeing what will be uncovered by the data-driven project and what insight into the EBVs of their flock:

“We have a strong interest in progressive farming techniques and using data and science to improve our stock’s performance and output. Almost all of our decisions are made from facts and figures, not guess work.

“It is for these reasons the Ram Compare project really appeals to us. We would love a chance to improve our knowledge and understanding of performance recording and estimated breeding values while exploring the merits of different breeds and how the different ram qualities thrive in their system. In addition, it will help show the benefits of recording sheep systems to the wider agricultural communities.”

As well as gaining unique access to one of the UK’s leading sheep projects, Saughland will receive a payment for the data provided, the provision of a select group of recorded rams for natural mating and funding to cover artificial insemination on a proportion of the flock.

Flocks joining RamCompare face a strict selection criteria. They must provide at least 350 uniformly bred ewes to be mated to rams nominated by the project. They must allocate ewes to single sire mating groups and finish lambs in an identical manner. The farmers must be experienced EID users and supply an abattoir that reports kill data for individual lambs. The health status of the flock is also important.

Bruce McConachie, QMS’s Head of Industry Development, says he is excited about the next stage of the project:

“Sheep farms across Scotland have already benefited from the previous RamCompare project activities, but growing our network and utilising a different farm will allow the project to take on a new challenge and a greater understanding to the genetic improvement of Scotland’s sheep industry.”

The data collection is set to commence with this year’s crop of lambs so keep up to date with the project at https://www.signetdata.com/technical/ramcompare/ or via the QMS social media channels.

RamCompare is seeking performance recorded rams and semen from terminal-sires for the 2022 mating season. Please consider supporting us with your ram nominations. Ram nominations will open in February 2022, we will contact performance recorded breeders directly and forms will be made available here.