SIRE REFERENCE schemes still have a role to play in the future of sheep breeding, despite the introduction of cross-breed analysis to Signet’s performance recording service.

Suffolk Sire Reference Scheme (SSRS) founder member David Hiam says the scheme still has a valuable role to play, as most of its members are committed to using estimated breeding values (EBVs) to make breeding decisions. “These breeders want to continue the high rate of progress they’ve been making and the best way of doing this is through the SSRS.”

Additionally, a core of particularly high and low index tups is needed for research trials and other projects and these are best sourced from sire reference flocks which have high levels of connectiveness, he reckons.

“The key to connectiveness is ensuring your animals are related to recorded stock. Being related to other animals simply isn’t enough, they must be related to recorded animals.”

Meanwhile, MLC’s Signet breeding services manager Sam Boon reckons sire reference schemes have a bright future, so long as they offer what breeders want. “Sire reference schemes have a pivotal role in the UK sheep industry. They facilitate co-operation among breeders that enables individual flocks to gain a competitive edge and improve profitability of their aninals.”

While the new across breed analysis offers the chance for non-sire reference scheme members to compare their stock more readily with other flocks, Mr Boon says strong across flock linkage is needed to enable comparisons to be made confidently.

“Strong genetic linkage is needed and breeders recognise this. Many are realising the easiest way to achieve this is by using semen from reference rams. Sire reference schemes provide one of the most straightforward ways to achieve this.”

Schemes have also acted as buying groups for members in the past, securing AI and genetics at competitive rates for their members, adds Mr Boon.

SIRE REFERENCING

Stronger links possible

Access to high index semen

Quicker progress possible