New Zealand bloodlines aid quest for leanness
NEW Zealand bloodlines are combining well with UK traits to boost one Hampshire Down flocks breeding programme.
Mike Adams of the 12ha (30 acres) Warners Court, Charfield, Wotton-under-Edge, Glos, began an improvement programme four years ago by importing 120 embryos from New Zealand.
He is awaiting this years lambing in December. The lambs being born will be second generation crosses; an exciting prospect, he believes. "The performance recording results of first generation crosses are proof the marriage between the two types of sheep works. The next generation have a lot of potential."
The results of this years scheme, the first year of recording New Zealand and UK crosses, show Mr Adamss flock rising 22 points to an average scheme index of 119 – more than twice the 9% progress of the scheme as a whole.
The idea is to combine the best New Zealand traits of easy lambing, length and leanness with UK conformation and carcass quality, said Mr Adams.
"In New Zealand, Hampshires produce lambs that meet the commercial market. I was impressed by their length and leanness and they have commercial benefits of being able to lamb without assistance."
One other favourable attribute of New Zealand Hampshire Downs is thick skin, said Mr Adams. "They are capable of surviving bad weather because their wool is greasy. This means lambs shed water, making them more likely to survive hypothermia."
Mr Adams admitted his policy is costly, with embryos costing £500 a pair to use in his 36 head flock. "It was an extremely expensive thing to do, but I was sufficiently confident of success."
Ten females and five rams remain from Mr Adams first pure New Zealand lambs. "Every time you cross these sheep you dissolve the genetics, but I will keep these pure as I may want to return to these and use them again.
"I have been breeding Hampshires for 15 years and was sick of hearing commercial producers say they used to use the breed but dont anymore. We have to give them a reason to change and it must be seen as a positive step," said Mr Adams. *