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Top breeding boosts profit and productivity in commercial lambs

RamCompare’s year six results demonstrate how rams with key breeding traits can optimise flock profitability. In four case studies, flock profitability was enhanced by £1.98 to £5.17 per lamb; with some rams producing lambs that finished several weeks earlier than others.

The full results, which report the data collected and analysed from rams with the fastest growth rates, best conformation and most valuable progeny, will be presented in an industry webinar on 19 May, which is free to attend and open to all.

RamCompare uses nominated performance-recorded rams from many breeds on commercial farms across the UK. The project, which is fully supported by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) alongside 16 other partners, has recorded the performance of more than 30,000 lambs, sired by 313 rams over six breeding seasons. For the year six results, a team of 60 natural service rams were used, producing performance data from more than 5,000 lambs.

This joint levy-funded research project demonstrates how commercial producers can use specific estimated breeding values (EBVs) to identify rams with high genetic potential and prove their worth when assessing financial impact.

Bruce McConachie, Head of Industry Development at QMS, said: “The project is not only vital in driving the industry forward, but the results are invaluable to farmers seeking to improve efficiency and reduce costs. The data ensures that terminal sire ram buyers have confidence that selecting and using the best EBVs will have a positive benefit to their bottom lines.”

When looking at how ram selection might influence meat eating quality, the data highlights genetic differences in shear force, an indicator of meat tenderness. With thanks to Randall Parker and Dunbia, trial lambs were selected for primal measurements to determine front, middle and haunch carcase yield, and at the same time, loin samples from these carcases were retained. Over 4,000 lambs have been included from a range of Terminal sire breeds to identify rams whose progeny produce the most tender meat. This pioneering work which has been led by AHDB, will also identify how sheep breeding programmes can change to enhance traits that influence meat eating quality.

RamCompare Project Coordinator, Bridget Lloyd says: “The RamCompare results identify progeny groups which have excelled for carcase conformation and value as a direct result of the genetic merit of their sire.

“We have also identified sires with enhanced genes for speed of growth whose lambs were finishing a week or two ahead of other progeny groups on the same farm. These are large differences in performance and clearly show why producers wishing to enhancing flock profitability, must select those rams with the best genetics for their production system and end market.”

To register for the results webinar on 19 May, visit https://ahdb.org.uk/events/webinar-ramcompare-year-six-results. For more information on RamCompare, including case studies and data, visit ramcompare.com.