With tup sale season underway, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) has published a guide explaining the use of Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) in conjunction with good stockmanship in selecting the right tup.
“Using EBVs as a Tool to Breed Better Sheep” is an easy-to-read publication which offers producers practical information on tup selection. The booklet provides a step-by-step guide for those interested in learning more about how EBVs can help them improve the performance of their flocks.
It includes content on selecting fit-for-purpose tups and the main EBV traits that are important to different types of sheep production. The publication also contains advice on how to interpret the EBV data presented at sales.
Pedigree tup breeders Gregor and Bruce Ingram from Logie Durno Farm in Aberdeenshire are confident that using EBVs and performance recorded tups helps improve flock performance and profitability.
“There is no question in my mind that EBVs are the future for Scottish sheep farmers,” said Gregor Ingram. “Commercial farmers who use terminal EBV recorded tups have lambs that grow faster and make more profit per acre, which will increase efficiency over the entire enterprise.”
Commercial sheep farmers Robbie and Barbara Milne from North Bethelnie farm near Old Meldrum started buying terminal EBV recorded tups around eight years ago. They have seen a vast improvement in the quality of the lambs they produce and have been able to get them to prime weight quicker, saving both grass and money.
“We generally lamb in April and manage to get the majority of our lambs away in July and August,” said Barbara Milne. “Since we started using EBVs and recorded tups, our grading sheets have never been so good.”
Neil and Debbie McGowan from Incheoch farm near Blairgowrie have been breeding performance recorded tups for over 20 years and are sure that investing in a recorded tup pays dividends.
“If you want to get the best out of your flock you need to have the genetics balanced to the system you have in place and EBVs are a way of doing that,” said Neil McGowan.
“By using tups selected for strong maternal traits you are investing in your future. Your flock is going to be with you for a long time and by improving your ewe, you are improving your overall flock.”
Michael Hay from Meikle Tullo farm near Edzell breeds his own replacements and has also seen the benefit of investing in recorded tups. He said: “I only moved into sheep farming nine years ago and using recorded tups has allowed me to improve the genetic performance of my flock quickly. For me, EBVs take away the lottery of buying a ram when you are only looking at its appearance.”
Along with the booklet, QMS has filmed a series of short videos giving an insight into how sheep farmers around the country are using EBVs to improve their flocks and business performance.
All the farmers share the view that good stockmanship skills and the ability to assess tups “by eye” and by careful physical inspection are also vitally important.
If you would like to obtain a free copy of the guide ‘Using EBVs as a Tool to Breed Better Sheep’ contact QMS on 0131 472 4040. It is also available to download from the QMS website www.qmscotland.co.uk