1st June 2010

Sheep focus farm project – year four results revealed

Quality Meat Scotland’s Scottish Sheep Strategy launched the results of the fourth year of its “Benefits of Better Breeding in the Scottish Sheep Sector” project - better known as the Sheep Focus Farm project - today at Scotsheep.

Phase one of the project produced two consecutive years worth of data from the six Sheep Focus Farm businesses taking part in the project and showed that on average the use of a High Index recorded tup could bring cumulative gains averaging £10 per ewe both from the hill and lowland flocks.

Additional benefits that could be gained were more uniform batches of lambs which were heavier as store lambs and, for flocks producing for the meat trade, a reduction in the number of days to slaughter allowing producers to better target when they want to supply the market.

The results from this second phase of the trial show that for those flocks which produce their own ewe lamb replacements, the use of High Index performance recorded tups can still bring in additional profit to a flock, averaging £17.33 per ewe. In each of the six sheep focus farms the High Index sired ewes out performed the Low Index sired ewes and it was the maternal performance of these ewes that produced the difference.

Maimie Paterson, Chair of the Scottish Sheep Strategy, said: “If we are to have more winters like the one we experienced this year then no matter where in Scotland you are lambing, you need ewes that will keep their lambs close to them and keep the milk flowing. Its not necessarily the bonny ones at tupping time that are the ones which produce the goods when hard weather arrives and the reserves are needed.”

On display at Scotsheep were Texel cross ewes with lambs at foot from Dalmeny Home Farm and Scottish Blackface ewes with lambs at foot from Rotmell near Dunkeld allowing producers to see for themselves what the difference in recorded sires could produce.

Rod McKenzie, Scottish Sheep Strategy Development manager, said: “The Low Index sired ewes have produced good lambs but the High Index sired ewes have produced even better lambs.

“Profit is what keeps businesses going and if we want to encourage new entrants into the sheep industry we need to ensure there are animals capable of sustaining them.”

EID is another hot topic and the QMS Scottish Sheep Strategy stand featured a ewe and lambs from a farm piloting the use of EID to assess the potential benefit as a tool for producers who want to record and monitor their flock’s performance. More information is available by visiting Brewster’s blog at www.scottishsheepstrategy.org.uk .

Kathy Peebles, QMS Livestock Development Manager, said: “EID allows producers to monitor their flocks in a less time consuming way. With the use of the EID tag and a computer, lamb selection is easier and more accurate than trying to physically read ear tags whilst the animal’s head is continually moving.

“There are now a number of commercially available packages that can help deliver the performance results that a flock owner may want to know or base breeding decisions on.

“However, there is still one part of the chain missing and that is the individual feedback from the abattoir for those who want to monitor their slaughter lambs. It would be good to think that by Scotsheep 2012 that will no longer be an issue.”

The Year 4 Booklet “The Benefits of Better Breeding in the Scottish Sheep Sector” is available by contacting QMS on 0131 472 4040. Alternatively it can be downloaded from the Scottish Sheep Strategy website www.scottishsheepstrategy.org.uk

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