Not daunting if you know what you want
BUYING rams from Builth Wells may be daunting for some, but not for one Hereford buyer who goes there with a fair idea of what he is after.
Stuart Hutchings, farm manager of Gatley Farms, Leinthall Earls, travels to Builth Wells every year to buy Suffolk rams for his 1100-ewe March lambing Welsh Country Mule flock.
"There is a tremendous choice and plenty of stock with performance recorded data available."
He is usually after six to eight ram lambs and narrows the field of potential vendors by keeping tabs on a few flocks that have records.
He also likes to buy from sire reference scheme flocks, where each flocks genetic improvement is measurable. These, he says, have made good genetic progress, something which has eluded much of the sheep and beef industries.
At last years sale he was able to pick up estimated breeding values for muscle depth, fat depth and growth rate from all the flocks he buys from. This information is added value, he says. "I look at the eight- and 20-week weight EBVs and muscle EBVs, but am less concerned about fat EBVs, as we have no problems with this."
As well as figures, Mr Hutchings prefers to buy Suffolks, saying they grow faster than other breeds. But buying tups is an important part of meeting flock objectives.
Mr Hutchings 1850 lambs are sold through Marches Quality Livestock scheme and average 19.5kg carcass weight, and 2-3L for conformation and leanness. Therefore, he needs rams with good indexes, which can add an extra kg of weight to their progeny without them turning fat.
To achieve this he reckons he can afford to pay more for his rams. Replacement ram lambs cost his flock about £1.25 for every crossbred lamb that he sells. "You could probably do it for less, but spending extra money buying SRS rams is worth it.
"It is well documented that high index rams perform better and in my commercial flock crossbred lambs achieve an extra kg of weight gain and remain at the same fat class."
According to Mr Hutchings, performance recorded figures give as much data as a tups phenotype, which can be influenced by feeding.
But conformation and gigot size are still important characteristics, he says. At Builth Wells, he physically examines the gigot size of all rams he is interested in by assessing how much depth they have between the top of their rump and between their legs. "There is much that can be disguised by a well trimmed ram, so it is worth examining them," he adds. *
Stuart Hutchings says he will be looking for tups with good conformation, growth rates and EBVs to match; Judy Hiam aims to supply that.