Schemes to boost Bluefaced Leicester ram improvements
By Robert Davies
TWO new schemes should accelerate the improvement of Bluefaced Leicester rams used to breed widely-used Mule ewes.
Sires already classified as Elite under the societys own visual assessment scheme can now be reassessed for Elite Plus status if independent judges believe that their progeny are above average quality.
Either four crossbred ewe lambs, or three male or female purebred lambs, must be submitted for inspection.
"Elite rams are classified on type, mouth and conformation, but we also need to know that they are breeding well and passing on their favourable traits," said Malvern breeder Jeff Leake during a classification session at Welshpool Smithfield in Powys last week.
His entry, which gained a mark of over 55% to be classified "Approved" a year before, again failed to achieve the 75% required to reach Elite status. But he acknowledged that the standard set by the trio of assessors must be high for classification to be credible.
At the same event the 13 members of the breeds sire reference scheme held a secret ballot to select two high index rams for use on some of their collective flock of 600 ewes over the next year. Scheme chairman, Derek Hall, who runs 65 Bluefaces south of Edinburgh, said he hoped that new affiliated members would use a significant amount of the semen collected.
"Many breeders who would like to make use of the good genetics available have flocks that are too small to justify the cost of full scheme membership," he said.
"Our unique affiliation scheme allows them to pay £100 to get access to 10 doses of semen at £20 each. They do not have to pay other membership costs such as recording by Signet and scanning."
Scheme members had decided to continue when MAFF funding ended because they could see that it had already given a 1kg rise in lamb weaning weights, and improved conformation.
Dewi Jones, at the Welsh Institute of Rural Studies at Aberystwyth, said each new initiative was speeding improvement of the Bluefaced Leicester breed, and the many thousands of crossbred ewes sired by its rams.
For some, getting tups classified could be a first step on the road to getting involved in the application of science to breed improvement. That was happening in the Penglas group breeding scheme based at WIRS, through sire referencing, and within a project aiming to develop a new selection index to improve the carcass quality of longwool crossing sire breeds, while maintaining reproductive performance and maternal ability.
"About 22% of British prime lamb comes from crossbred ewes sired by longwool tups. Together these breeding ideas can contribute to raising flock productivity and carcass quality improvement." *
• Reclassification to Elite Plus?
• Affiliated SRS members.
• Speeding improvement.