Hampshire Downs make record genetic gains

The Hampshire Down breed has made record genetic gain in the last 12 months, a trend that has been accelerated by the strong commercial lamb trade, according to Signet.

The overall genetic trend for the breed has increased by 16 index points on the year, with an increase in scan weight EBV of more than 0.5kg. Those increments are virtually twice the value of those made in each of the last few consecutive years.

According to Signet breeding services manager and EBLEX breeding specialist, Sam Boon, the 2011 Hampshire Down genetic trends may provide an early indication that breeders are taking advantage of high lamb prices and being selective in the lambs being retained.

“This change is in part an indication of the quality of the lambs that have been registered with the Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders’ Association and in part reflects the type of breeding decisions made last autumn, both in terms of the ewes that were to be retained and the rams they were to be mated to,” says Mr Boon.

“In fact, the ongoing strong lamb trade could provide the industry with an unexpected long-term bonus in terms of accelerated genetic progress, since culling decisions are much simpler when lamb prices are high.”

Signet ultrasound scanning technicians have noticed the number of lambs being held through to scanning is slightly lower this year, with many breeders not wishing to lose out on a high early price and having already culled lambs that may not have made the grade.

However, culling hard should not be reserved for periods when the commercial marketplace is buoyant, says Mr Boon. “Breeders should always be selective when it comes to retaining animals for breeding.”

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