17th May 2011

Sheep Producers Urged Not to Gamble on Looks Alone

The need for farmers to avoid gambling their business profitability on a good looking tup is the main message coming out of the first phase of the Scottish Sheep Strategy Focus Farm Project.

 Over four tupping seasons and nearly four thousand lambs born the project, led by Quality Meat Scotland, has consistently proven the value in investing in high quality performance recorded tups as opposed to just going by eye.


Through the course of the project, managed by Alison Glasgow of Signet Breeding Services, the value of the high index tups averaged approximately £11 per ewe mated more than low index tups and £5 per ewe mated more than farm choice tups (those which are unrecorded and purchased “by eye”).


Importantly this improvement has cumulative benefits and resulted in the daughters of the initial flock also improving performance.


Maimie Paterson, Scottish Sheep Strategy Chairman, said: “The first focus farm project was designed to discover whether superior genetics can be passed down to succeeding generations and although the project was not a tightly controlled scientific experiment, the results speak for themselves.

“What the trial proved was that the daughters of the High Index tups produced more kilos of lamb and gave better financial returns than those of low-index or farm choice sires.”

A new booklet rounding up the full results of the project was launched at an event held today (Tuesday 17th May) held at the Morrisons Farm at Dumfries House in Ayrshire.

Though the results vary between the five farms that took part in the trial, all the farms involved had a positive outcome for flocks retaining daughters bred by High Index sired sires compared with those bred by Low Index sired sires. The financial benefit ranged from £4.50 per dam through to £7.50 per dam.

Extrapolated to a standard holding with a flock of 225 ewes this could mean a minimum additional  income of £1012.50 per year, all for no additional work .

Rod McKenzie, Scottish Sheep Strategy development manager said: “What is pleasing is that the results prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that using tups of high genetic merit pays.

“We know that there are people who consider that anybody could tell you this, and that it’s not clever at all. We all agree with this - the clever bit is identifying tups with the strengths that you need.

“All the community groups had the opportunity to view the tups prior to the first tupping time and it is fair to say that the high index tups got a less than enthusiastic reception on most of the farms.

“On one of the farms the results from the first year were disappointing and some people felt that their comments had been vindicated. Nobody could put their finger on what had happened, but we continued as planned, and at the end of the trial we proved that the financial benefit on that particular farm was substantial.

Mr McKenzie said the question which must now be asked is why this breeding tool is not being taken up more rapidly by the sheep industry?

“The Scottish Sheep Strategy is challenging the doubters to buy a High Index tup and prove to themselves that improved genetics really do work,” he added.

The final report from phase one of the focus farms project, as well as the yearly interim reports are now available to download from the Scottish Sheep Strategy website www.scottishsheepstrategy.org or from the QMS website www.qmscotland.co.uk.  The new booklets are also available to download from the QMS website or by calling QMS on 0131 472 4040.

Caption: Pictured at Dumfries House Estate are, from left, Rod McKenzie, Scottish Sheep Strategy development manager, Alison Glasgow of Signet Breeding Services and Maimie Paterson, Scottish Sheep Strategy Chairman.

For further press information please contact Carol McLaren, Head of Communications, QMS on 0131 4724112 or mobile: 07739 900653 email: cmclaren@qmscotland.co.uk

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