Difference in NZ and UK Suffolks ‘little’

New Zealand Suffolks are often reported as having more ‘low input easier care traits’ than British Suffolk strains, but new research, questions how true this is.

This is according to SAC’s Stephanie Matheson who compared birth, neonatal behaviour traits and dag scores of lambs sired by one of three main Suffolk strains.

Speaking at the British Society of Animal Science Conference, Belfast, he said; “The New Zealand strain of Suffolk has allegedly been selected for easier care traits which could represent the possibility of introducing genes for improved lambing ease and lamb vigour in to the British Suffolk sire strains. But we wanted to compare traits initially,” she said.

Welsh Mule ewes were mated with three different Suffolk strains; New Zealand sires, UK high index selected sires and UK traditional sires. Lambs born were then scored on birth assistance, lamb vigour and sucking assistance as well as birth weights and day scores at eight weeks old.

“We found there was little difference between sires on birth assistance, lamb vigour and suckling behaviour. However, high UK index selected lambs did require more assistance at birth than NZ lambs and it is likely this was due to their heavier birth weight. This is where incorporating some NZ genetics to reduce rates of dystocia without hindering lamb vigour figures could be beneficial,” she suggested.

Although results may not be as dramatic as people may expect given the promotion of New Zealand Suffolk easier care characteristics, Ms Matheson suggested repeating the experiment with pure-bred lambs could throw up greater differences between strains.

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