Keep scrapie factor in mind when buying rams
By Jonathan Long
WITH early breeding sales just around the corner, flockmasters are now starting to think about buying replacements, but when buying rams this year producers will need to consider National Scrapie Plan genotypes.
With only four of the 15 possible genotypes recognised by DEFRA as scrapie resistant, producers will need to select tups carefully, especially as the remaining 11 are not eligible for use after 2004, according to a DEFRA spokesman.
While there is no requirement for flockmasters outside the scheme to use genotyped rams, one retailer is already seeking lambs from resistant sires, according to Rachel Eglin of the Scrapie Epidemiology Group. It may, therefore, be in producers best interests to start using resistant sires as soon as possible.
To ensure rams convey the greatest possible levels of resistance to their offspring, producers should aim to buy tups from the top four genotypes from this year.
But it is unlikely that there will be enough genotyped rams available this season, according to Chris Lloyd, National Sheep Association commercial manager.
While promoting the concept of the NSP, Mr Lloyd stresses that developing a high health status flock is paramount above any commercial considerations. "The key point of the scheme is that Britain will be ahead the rest of Europe, with the exception of Holland, in developing a scrapie resistant flock."
Developing a scrapie resistant flock is desirable, but rushing headlong into it may lead to other problems, warns Borders flockmaster Malcolm Stewart.
"Consumer concerns must be taken into consideration, but we must be careful not to lose commercial traits in the desire to breed scrapie resistance into the national flock," says Mr Stewart, who runs 400 commercial ewes alongside 400 pedigree Suffolks and Texels. *
Sheep flock replacement purchases will have to consider scrapie genotyping this year, but there will not be enough resistant rams to go round, says the NSAs Chris Lloyd.
ARR/ARR Genetically most
ARR/AHQ Genetically resistant,
ARR/ARH but will need
when used for
ARR/ARH Little genetic
ARQ/ARH resistance to scrapie.
ARR/VRQ Genetically susceptible
AHQ/VRQ Highly susceptible to