2 March 2001

Benefits from identifying superior breeding stock

A small investment in a

scheme to improve hill and

upland sheep breeding stock

could increase lamb output

and Mule profits.

Jeremy Hunt reports

THE Northern Uplands Sheep Strategy (NUSS) is offering producers who invest just £125 the chance to rake in thousands of £s worth of extra profit.

The project is designed to identify superior breeding stock within hill flocks and improve flock performance. It offers the chance to increase sale weights of horned wether lambs by up to 2kg, as well as improving Mule gimmers and wethers profits by ensuring they have better growth and conformation.

NUSS, funded by the EC and MAFF and run by Signet, is looking for hill farmers in the north of England to sign up for the project which will initially run for two years.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for hill farmers to undertake a simple stock-take of flocks, identifying superior sire and dam lines and weeding out those which are draining flock profits," says Signet consultant Maurice Jones.

"Many hill flock owners are already tagging ewes. The project asks them to go one step further and use their existing identification system as part of a selection procedure based on performance."

NUSS will give participating flocks the opportunity to record under Signets Sheepbreeder Scheme which assesses stock on seven breeding traits.

Superior rams

Ultrasonic scanning will be used to measure backfat and muscle depth of lambs and the project will give producers the chance to use AI from high performance rams.

"Selection will help flock owners produce more lambs which are of better quality and heavier. Important maternal characteristics will be improved and superior rams bred in the flock can be identified.

Improvements will inevitably lead to higher draft and cull ewe values."

Members of the NUSS project will have lambs weighed at clipping time and then weighed and scanned for backfat and eye-muscle depth when lambs are weaned.

Mr Jones says this performance data provides an instant overview of the flocks true performance and the most efficient method of drafting out or culling ewes from the lower end.

"Data will also identify the breeding ability of rams being used, through the weighing and scanning results of their progeny.

"Eventually more breeders in breeds such as the Swaledale will be offering rams for sale with EBV figures. But, until then, the NUSS data will quickly enable individual flockmasters to assess rams within their own flocks."

A similar scheme in Scotland saw hill flocks add 2-3kg to lamb weaning weights over a three-year period.

"For a flock selling 1000 lambs thats another 3t of lamb to market. That amount of extra income can make a big impact on a flocks profits," explains Mr Jones.

NUSSSCHEME

&#8226 Investment needed small.

&#8226 Can improve performance.

&#8226 Helps to assess rams.