2nd July 2009

Better breeding shows bigger returns

A higher return of more than £20 per ewe has been shown in the latest results from a better breeding project in Scotland.

The QMS funded Scottish Sheep Strategy project, Benefits of Better Breeding in the Scottish Sheep Sector has demonstrated once again that sheep producers can achieve greater margins by using a High Index recorded sire.

The Hazelbank trial near Lockerbie with purebred Lleyns has shown that High Index sired lambs have left gross sales worth £20.49 per ewe more than returns from Low Index sired lambs.

Results from Westerhall near Dollar, one of the Scottish Blackface Focus farms, have backed up these findings, also showing that returns from High Index sired lambs were worth an additional £17.93 per ewe with the 2008 lamb crop. How were these figures achieved? Through carcase weight and more lambs on the ground from High Index sired tups.

The work is part of the five year Better Breeding project, a flagship initiative of the QMS funded Scottish Sheep Strategy. Information on this study, and others underway in Scotland as part of the Scottish Sheep Strategy, are being made available to farmers in a new publication now available to download from the QMS website.

Maimie Paterson, chair of the Scottish Sheep Strategy, said: “Results from the first two years of the Scottish Sheep Strategy’s Focus Farms have shown conclusively that on every sheep enterprise there are ewes, or even families of ewes which consistently under perform compared with their flock mates.

“We all know that it costs the same to keep a bad ewe as it does to keep a good one, so costs could be trimmed still further by identifying the underperformers and replacing them with more productive sheep.

“In the past selection has been based mainly on eye and breed type. We now have the knowledge and understanding to help make more informed choices when selecting not just our replacement tups, but our female replacements as well.

“It is difficult to embrace this idea on some farms, where lambing percentages are so low that nearly all the ewe lambs have to be kept as replacements, but we must stand back and look at the economics of keeping sheep for the sake of it.

“Stricter selection criteria may mean that there is a reduced percentage of ewe lambs retained, but in the long run that will be to the benefit of the overall business.”

For more information about the project and the Scottish sheep Strategy, visit www.scottishsheepstrategy.org.uk

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