Know How / Sheep / Breeding and fertility

Good breeding and fertility management in sheep flocks is key to achieving the best lamb crop. Find the latest advice on issues from ram and ewe genetics, ovulation and conception rates, to scanning, condition scoring, breeds, tup management and lambing.

Case studies

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LIVESTOCK

Why autumn lambing is a good fit for mixed farm

Livestock play a central role protecting soil health and fertility at the MacGregor Farming Partnership in Norfolk. Farmer Duncan MacGregor says muck is important, but the key is getting animals…

BREEDING AND FERTILITY

Top breeders give advice on buying Valais Blacknose sheep

Kerry Jones recalls being laughed out of the ring in the early days of exhibiting her Valais Blacknose sheep at agricultural shows, but the breed is the fastest-growing in the…

SHEEP

Dorset outdoor lamber lifts scan 20% with Belclare

Taking a gamble on an Irish sheep breed has paid off for one Dorset breeder, who has increased flock output 20% and developed an additional income stream selling rams. Mike…

BREEDING AND FERTILITY

Radical change to breeding policy sees replacement rates fall

Lake District farmer Pete Webster has reduced replacement rates from 25% to 20% since radically changing his breeding policy and developing a strict culling plan. “Involvement in the AHDB's Challenge…

BREEDING AND FERTILITY

Shropshire sheep breeders slash costs with NZ genetics switch

Shropshire sheep breeders the Hulme family have slashed costs and increased ram sales since switching from breeding sheep for the showring to focusing on genetics that thrive off forage. Robyn…

SHEEP

Versatile sheep breed shakes up hill sector

Rising costs and diminishing subsidies have made many upland farms review output and systems. Numerous units have switched to a Cheviot sire for this reason, either to breed replacements or…

Practical advice

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BREEDING AND FERTILITY

Advice for buying rams based on EBVs

Ram selection is key to a successful sheep enterprise, with trials showing that the right tup can be worth an extra £600 over his working lifetime. With 50 years’ worth…

SHEEP

Guide to preventing enzootic abortion in ewes

Enzootic abortion, also known as chlamydial abortion, is caused by infection with the bacteria Chlamydophila abortus. The bacteria damages the placenta and reduces the transfer of nutrients to the growing lamb…

SHEEP

Replacement options for flocks: breeding or buying

To maintain a healthy and productive flock, whether expanding or not, inevitably means you will need replacements each year. For some farmers, buying in will be the preferred option while…

BREEDING AND FERTILITY

How to make best use of teaser tups to tighten lambing

Teaser rams – those that have been vasectomised – can help tighten the lambing period by stimulating ewe ovulation. This can maximise the number of lambs born at the beginning…

SHEEP

Advice for buying rams and observing quarantine protocols

More rams are likely to be sold direct off-farm this year due to the cancellation of some breeding sales under Covid-19 restrictions. That means asking for a “bill of health”…

LIVESTOCK MARKETING

Alternatives to selling livestock at markets this autumn

Ongoing social distancing restrictions and the uncertainty surrounding some breeding stock sales mean farmers may have to think about alternative ways to buy and sell their stock. The backend of the…

Insights

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SHEEP

Does the UK have too many sheep breeds?

Over the centuries a spectrum of breeds has evolved in Britain, from fast-growing, prolific lowland types to hardier, single-bearing ewes for the uplands. According to the National Sheep Association (NSA),…

BREEDING AND FERTILITY

How pedigree breeds have changed in each sector

We looked at the latest data and spoke to industry experts to find out more about the changing picture for pedigree animals. We look at the dairy, beef, sheep and…

BREEDING AND FERTILITY

How Welsh sheep producers are improving hill genetics

Welsh Mountain sheep producers from across Wales have joined forces to raise the commercial standard of regional types of hill sheep. The ProHill producer group is the biggest collaborative breeding…

BREEDING AND FERTILITY

5 tips from NZ to increase sheep flock returns by 30%

UK sheep farmers can achieve a 30% increase in flock gross margins by adopting five principles used in New Zealand, a consultant claims. Murray Rohloff says while benefits will vary…

BREEDING AND FERTILITY

How Ram Compare could add £5 to lamb value

A national terminal sire sheep evaluation project has identified rams that can finish faster and at better grades on nine commercial sheep farms across the UK. Over the past four…

BREEDING AND FERTILITY

Livestock gene editing: Current rules and potential benefits

The potential to make our own legislation after leaving the EU could provide scope for gene editing of livestock to become mainstream in the UK. Gene editing changes a precise…

BREEDING AND FERTILITY

Sheep AI trial shows frozen semen possibilities

Farmers wishing to improve conception rates by using cervical insemination in combination with frozen semen could learn from a recent Farming Connect study. Cervical AI using fresh semen is not…

LIVESTOCK

CT scanning set to influence terminal and maternal traits

Computerised tomography (CT) scanning has demonstrated its value in sheep carcass improvements and could be used to play a role in lambing ease prediction. A range of measurements such as…

BREEDING AND FERTILITY

How EBVs can help hill farmers meet lamb market needs

A declining market in light lamb specifications means hill farmers need to adapt to meet new demands. This is according to geneticist Janet Roden from Aberystwyth, who believes genetic improvement…

Is performance recording hill breeds a waste of time?

Major opportunities to boost sheep profit and performance are being missed when sheep breeders shun performance recording, warn leading geneticists. New figures from AHDB Beef and Lamb show genetic gains…

LIVESTOCK

Farmers find key to improving Beulah Speckled Face flocks

Lamb weights at 20 weeks of age in performance-recorded Beulah Speckled Face sheep are increasing by an average of 0.15kg/year, according to a study. The figures were compiled during a…

LIVESTOCK

Combined breed analysis sparks debate in sheep industry

Plans to introduce a combined breed analysis in sheep in a similar manner to the dairy evaluation have been met with some reservation from the UK sheep industry. UK genetic…