25 July 1997

PROFIT FROM GOOD GENES

Choose a ram wisely at this autumns sales and you could reap the benefits for years to come.

Buying a tup which is genetically superior will give permanent improvement in your flock as its better genes are passed down through generations.

Selecting the right animal can often be a hit or miss affair. But the computer programme BLUP, which produces estimated breeding values, makes that choice far easier. It removes the effect of management on performance: A well presented ram may not necessarily possess the best genes, and this will be apparent where rams have been recorded.

The plus points of a particular ram – and the negatives – can be seen at a glance. That means producers striving to improve one particular aspect in their flock can opt for a tup which scores highly for that trait.

For sceptics, the positive scores for some traits may seem almost insignificant. But they add up through the generations.

To buy a ram on sight alone must be a folly. The only way to know what you are buying – and ensure you get what you pay for – is to insist on EBV figures.

The promise of better profits is what is driving members of a Welsh Mountain flock improvement scheme, discussed in this supplement, and a producer who is striving to produce easy-care ewes.

And with the increasing interest in selecting scrapie-free rams, we look at genotyping progress, and how that knowledge should be used within the national flock.

At a time when margins in the sheep industry are being squeezed, the benefits of genetic progress and permanent flock improvement cannot be ignored. Future profits could depend on it.

The sheep industry is marching forward with genetic progress in all areas – particularly performance.