The results of the latest trials by Quality Meat Scotland’s Scottish Sheep Strategy reinforce the message that commercial sheep farmers will improve returns by using tups with the genetic potential to sire more efficient off-spring.
Recent trial results, announced at Scotsheep today (Wednesday 6th June), reveal producers selecting High Index Suffolk tups are obtaining a welcome income boost of £2 - £3 per lamb.
Maimie Paterson, chairman of the Scottish Sheep Strategy, said the rationale for initiating a trial using Suffolk focus farms, was the breed’s ability to sire lambs which grow quickly and reach market specification at a young age.
“Over the previous four years we used four different breeds of tup on six farms operating different management and marketing strategies and proved conclusively that High Index tups consistently outperform tups selected in the traditional manner by £5 per ewe mated per annum.
“This figure was achieved by a combination of factors, each contributing to the overall margin. The lambs were slightly heavier and had slightly better conformation. They also reached target weight and cover at a younger age and had a better survival rate.
“We felt it was important to then run a trial to see whether or not the same benefits could be shown in this type of faster finishing system.”
Three farms agreed to come on board as Suffolk focus farms: Morrisons Farm at Dumfries House (Morrisons); Kings Arms Farm, Ballantrae (Messrs Dalrymple) and Wellheads at Huntly (the Gordon family).
The results of the first year show, that for the 584 lambs involved in the three-farm trial, the use of High Performance sires generated an increased return averaging £2.69/lamb compared with Farm Choice sires (where genetic merit is not known).
The benefit varied from £1.19/lamb on the Morrisons Farm to £3.13/lamb at Wellheads Farm and £3.91/lamb at Kings Arms.
Rod McKenzie, Scottish Sheep Strategy Development Manager, said: “Once more we have proved that on different farms, with different constraints, there is a consistency and reliability in using High Index tups which rewards the lamb producer handsomely.
“It is now looking as if the price for finished lamb has plateaued and, with costs of production continuing to rise, an increase of £2 - £3 per lamb is very significant.”
Mr McKenzie expressed thanks to all those involved in the work behind the trial including Robert Dalrymple, Andrew and Fiona MacLean at Kings Arms; Andrew and Claire Robinson and Andy McKie at Morrisons Farm, Dumfries House and John and Ewen Gordon and Doug Stephen at Wellheads.
To obtain a copy of the booklet, “Phase 2 of the 2011 Better Breeding Project – Suffolk”, contact QMS on 0131 472 4040 or request a copy online at www.scottishsheepstrategy.co.uk.
Caption: The Duke of Rothesay (left) hears about the Scottish Sheep Strategy from QMS Chairman Jim McLaren (right) as Maimie Paterson, Chairman of the Scottish Sheep Strategy looks on.