RamCompare (1) is a major industry-led sheep breeding initiative. It is the first commercial progeny test in the UK for terminal sire breeds, with an investment of over £500,000 planned over the next three years. In the first phase of the project, 70 rams (Texel, Suffolk, Charollais, Meatlinc and Hampshire Down) produced nearly 8,000 lambs through artificial insemination (AI) and natural service on six commercial farms over two breeding seasons. Data collected throughout the supply chain is being used to develop new approaches to assess the performance of pedigree animals. Data from the project is also be used to support the Combined Breed Analysis research project.
A key output from the project is the development of new estimated breeding values (EBVs). These will help commercial producers select rams with the best genetic potential to produce progeny to meet market specification.
Three New EBVs and Carcase Merit Score
Initial results were released to industry at the Sheep Breeders’ Round Table in November 2017 and the leading sires were ranked within the project for a range of breeding traits, including eight-week weight, scan weight, muscle and fat depth based on data collected from their progeny.
Three new EBVs for carcase weight, conformation, and fat class have been developed and are being used to give an overall carcase merit figure. The results will be updated in May 2018 with a further 1,500 carcase records for lambs born in late spring 2017. More information, including preliminary results and the project report, can be found at www.ramcompare.com
Recorded Southdowns included in RamCompare
In 2017, RamCompare announced that in addition to the five breeds of rams used in the first phase of the project, it would be extending the number of breeds on test. As members of the Southdown Signet Group (performance recorded flocks) were keen to have the breed represented two rams were entered into an AI centre in winter 2017 to ensure semen was available for use in the 2018 breeding season.
Ridings Daniel 13/01444 (M55424) and East Dean Dean 09/2132 (M54063) will both be used on AI groups during 2018.
Samuel Boon, Signet Manager says, “The great thing about RamCompare is that we see the relative strengths of different breeds, including attributes not normally assessed in pedigree recording schemes - such as days to slaughter – a trait where native breeds are expected to perform well.”
“When selecting rams, the project is looking to see how animals of different genetic merit perform under a commercial environment. It isn’t always about finding the best animals to put on test, though obviously it is great when elite candidates are put forward.”
“The initial Southdown ram selection has focussed on breeding lines that have long established performance records – so we know exactly how they perform for traits like scan weight and muscle depth - and we can then see how these influence financial performance in a commercial environment. The added benefit from this year’s ram choice is they are well linked to many other flocks – so these records will also increase genetic linkage and strengthen the overall Southdown evaluation.”
In addition to these two AI rams at least two more recorded Southdowns will be used as live sires or AI. Other breeds included in 2018 are Blue Texel, Bleu du Maine, Shropshire, Beltex, Poll Dorset and Dorset Down. Preliminary results from these breeds and Southdowns will be available in 2019 as at least two years of data is needed to provide robust analysis.
For more information about RamCompare visit www.RamCompare.com
(1) RamCompare is funded by AHDB, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AgriSearch, with support from Sainsbury’s