25th November 2009

Borders pair recognised for performance recording

Two borders farmers at the forefront of promoting the use of performance recording in animal breeding have been recognised at the Royal Highland Winter Fair today (25 November).

Arnold Park from Drinkstone at Hawick and Richard Oates from Billerwell, Bonchester Bridge were presented with the Johnstone Carmichael Trophy by the Scottish Sheep Strategy at the Ingliston event.

The trophy, sponsored by accountancy firm, Johnston Carmichael, is awarded annually by the Strategy to the person or persons who have raised the profile of performance recording in Scotland.

Both of this year’s winners have gained an international reputation for having their priorities firmly set on commercial attributes when developing their breeding programmes.

With a background in dairy farming in Cumbria and pig farming in Yorkshire, Arnold gained an understanding of genetics which put him in good stead when he moved into sheep production at Drinkstone in 1991. This 1300 acre upland farm is home to an 850 ewe Blackface flock, a 120 ewe Texel flock, a 100 ewe Suffolk flock and a small flock of Blue Faced Leicesters.

The Parks have had the top index Suffolk ram lamb in five of the last 10 years, they have previously had the top index Texel and this year had the second and third top index Texels.  International interest in their flock genetics has meant that this year alone they have has exported semen to Canada, Italy, Romania, Norway and Sweden as well as the live rams to Hungary.

Richard Oates, who now farms a 350 acre upland farm at Bonchester Bridge, originally got involved with performance recording when he farmed at Lumbylaw near Alnwick. The Lumbylaw Limousin herd and the Texel flock were renowned for producing top quality animals with extremely high performance figures. The recorded Limousin herd won the breed championships at both the Royal Highland and the Royal Shows as well as winning the interbreed at the Royal Highland.

Richard was chairman of the Texel Recording Members Group from 1991 until 2000 and was heavily involved in the development of C.T. Scanning. He is a strong advocate of two stage selection, on farm scanning to identify the top ram lambs and then C.T. Scanning to find the very best animals each year

The Texel flock was the top performance flock in both 2007 and 2008 and produced five of the top rated stock sires in 2008.

Rod McKenzie, Development Manager of the Scottish Sheep Strategy, said “We are so fortunate in Scotland to have men of the calibre and experience of Richard and Arnold.

“They have proved time and again that the key to financial success in livestock production is within our grasp.  Identification and use of the best genetics, combined with good stockmanship will give people the results they require to make a good living.

“2013 is rapidly approaching and these two gentlemen have shown us all how it is quite possible to have a sheep enterprise which is independent and does not rely on subsidies to make it pay.

“The knowledge, science and information is out there and the industry would be better and fitter if it made us of the available technology and followed the example of these forward thinking men.”

Last year’s Johnston Carmichael Trophy was awarded to the Lennox family at Shantron, overlooking Loch Lomond, who were recognised for maximising the possible returns from their sheep and minimising inputs – mainly purchased feed and labour – through identification of animals with superior genetics.

For more information about the Scottish Sheep strategy, visit www.scottishsheepstrategy.org.uk

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