Sheep farmers could increase ram values by more than £900 by investing in proven estimated breeding values (EBVs).
This is according to the six-year results from the RamCompare project, published on 19 May, and based on a conservative benefit of £3.50 a lamb, explains Sam Boon, manager at Signet Breeding Services. This calculation assumes a working life of three years for the ram, with 60 ewes and 1.4 lambs sold a year.
See also: RamCompare year five results announced
Actual increases in progeny values are estimated to be £4-£6 a lamb, meaning ram profitability has the potential to be even greater – between £1,200 and £1,500 over a ram’s working lifetime, Mr Boon estimates.
Although initial funding meant the RamCompare project was planned to run for only five years, Mr Boon says farmers were so confident in the value of the programme that they continued data collection at their own expense during the sixth year, to “prevent the project from losing momentum”.
More funding has now been confirmed for the continuation of the project, with four new farms added for year seven.
Four breeds sit at the top of at least one of the 2021 RamCompare EBV leader tables. Unlike other years, there was no AI programme this year (due to lack of funding) and results are instead based on natural service.
Top ram for scan weight EBV is Normanby (27Z1901049), a Hampshire Down bred by CM Brant and Son.
Days to slaughter
With an EBV of -19.42, Thorbeck (80X1700402) – a Hampshire Down bred by Jim Birkwood – takes top spot on the days-to-slaughter leaderboard.
A Meatlinc ram has claimed the title of the highest carcass weight, coming in at 1.12. Richardson 14561 (UK 0 384606 14561), bred by C and JP Richardson, is a four-year-old ram which has sired 96 progeny to date.
With an EBV of 2.49, Miserden (AAS/16/02048) – a Blue Texel bred by A and S Andrews – came out top for carcass conformation. He had an EBV 1.37 greater than the second-place ram – Hundalee Volcano.
Miserden also claimed top spot for the carcass fat class EBV.
Overall carcass merit index
Overall carcass merit index champion goes to Brettles Utopia (19WF02907), a Charollais bred by MM and ML Rushbrooke and now owned by Redhill Charollais.
Next steps for RamCompare
At present, EBVs are the results of two separate genetic analyses. But this is set to change: project funding is earmarked for research at Scotland’s Rural College to see if the two analyses can be combined with abattoir-derived EBVs, delivered via the National Terminal Sire Evaluation.
Mr Boon says this would make the data more accessible to breeders and ram buyers and open up the possibility of using other sources of carcass data.
The full list of results can be found on the RamCompare website.
Shear force results
The completion of the initial five years of the RamCompare project also marks the conclusion of a study into shear force EBVs. This involved carrying out shear force analysis on 4,343 loin samples from carcasses of RamCompare lambs.
Headline findings are that higher shear force EBVs signify tougher meat quality, meaning lower values are more desirable. The heritability is currently predicted at about 16%, explains Mr Boon.
Based on the data collected between 2016 and 2020, Crogham Lambert (11AB00035), a Charollais bred by Crogham Charollais, is the trait leader.