3 November 1995

Suffolk scheme delivers goods

THE average lamb born within the Suffolk sire reference scheme this year was 2.5kg heavier at 21 weeks, compared with scheme progeny in 1990.

It also produced 1mm more eye muscle, with virtually no change in backfat cover.

The schemes objective is to help members breed better sheep and understand how estimated breeding values (EBVs) can improve flock profit.

A trial underway on one Oxon unit aims to prove that high index rams produce lambs which finish more quickly and are of a superior conformation to those sired by a low index ram.

Average scheme index is 143 points this year. In 1990 it was 100, and every year there has been a gradual improvement.

The indexes are based on performance data collected by Signet through its Sheepbreeder scheme. Best linear unbiased prediction (BLUP) analysis allows ram performance to be assessed across flocks.

There are 48 flocks striving towards this goal, working with a genetic pool of 3500 ewes. When the scheme began in 1989 less than 20 breeders were involved.

Male progeny in the top 5% for performance travel to Penrith, Cumbria, each year for selection as next years scheme sires. Usually one or two are successful and the scheme buys a 51% share of each lamb. The breeder retains the balance and keeps the lamb at home after semen has been taken for freezing.