Farmer Focus: Autumn brings breeding EBV considerations

Autumn is one of my favourite times of year. The weather has cooled, but grass looks to be growing well, which is keeping livestock happy.

I find myself spending more time on the farm. We are now in the process of condition scoring ewes and grouping accordingly.

With only four weeks until tupping, it’s time to start building the slimmer ewes up and ensuring fit ewes don’t become fat. We will also begin grouping ewes for tupping and assessing which tups would be best suited.

Tups are assessed on estimated breeding values (EBVs) and structure. We only use high-genetic-value ram lambs and the grouping is based on producing superior progeny that will thrive.

See also: Why cross-bred tups are on the rise

Culling is still taking place, and this has been a continual process since weaning. As we are now keeping a sufficient number of ewes, we find ourselves being ever more selective.

Although we are producing a terminal sire and selection is based on growth rate and days to slaughter, we do also take records for lambing ease and maternal ability.

As a shepherd of a large nucleus flock is it vital that ewes are able to look after themselves and their progeny. We find that culling for maternal ability is decreasing year on year – this shows that this policy, coupled with retaining genetically superior females, is proving successful.

Although not everyone agrees with the use of EBVs and selecting on figures, I believe wholeheartedly in the progress we have made and the benefits we are now seeing.

I have had my doubts over the past six years, but the perseverance is now paying off. I would encourage everyone to consider buying a terminal sire that is recorded and use the EBVs as a selection guide.

It not only gives you an estimate of the potential genetic value of the animals and its progeny, but will help you focus the mind and look at what aspects need improving on your fat lambs.

It is also vital to remember that genetic gains will ensure a permanent and cumulative improvement, unlike feeding, for example. Improvements in one generation are added to the next.

Shaun Hall Jones is a Farmer Focus writer in Carmarthenshire. Read his biography.