Lamb uniformity improvement is a key goal for MLC
By Rebecca Austin
IMPROVING specific aspects of lamb uniformity by developing and implementing breeding programmes and systems are key goals of the Meat and Livestock Commissions sheep strategy.
Conformation and fat class, as demanded by abattoirs and exporters, are the key targets. The aim is more lambs grading R or better on the EUROP grid and a fat class of at least 3L.
"Over the years we have removed a number of technical obstacles to improve genetic improvement," Stuart Hall, MLCs sheep strategy manager told a Smithfield FarmTech Farmer Forum.
"First there was the weigh crush to measure growth rates, then ultrasound scanning for backfat and eye muscle measurements and now best linear unbiased prediction. Using those tools with sire reference and group breeding schemes, which utilise AI and embryo transfer techniques, has brought obvious benefits, said Mr Hall. Flocks using performance-recorded rams have produced leaner lambs with superior carcasses.
Lambs finish faster, due to greater daily liveweight gains. Producers also secure higher prices by marketing stock when supply is low and achieve a better carcass weight through improved muscling and less fat covering.
"The Texel, Suffolk and Charollais sire reference schemes have demonstrated their progress by steadily improving scheme indexes over the years," said Mr Hall.
These indexes are individual records of an animals performance as measured by growth rate, backfat cover and eye muscle depth. All three groups started with a mean index of 100. After about five years the Suffolk average is now 143 and the Texel and Charollais 130.
Breeding tools, such as estimated breeding values, help produce lambs which will finish faster due to higher daily liveweight gains.